PORT TOWNSEND — Sometimes as part of a team, you support each other, no matter what.
At the Jefferson County Public Utility District, being part of something bigger than one’s self led to selfless acts to support a colleague.
Marianne Kline started to lose her hair after enduring two surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation and other ordeals during a six-month medical leave from the PUD to treat a cervical cancer diagnosis.
When she returned to work last month after receiving a new round of chemotherapy, it became obvious that the hats she wore weren’t hiding her hair loss and she knew that she’d have to take off her remaining locks.
Kline’s co-workers at the PUD didn’t want her to have to shave her head alone. They had been giving her cards, meals, rides and many other forms of support since Kline first shared her diagnosis in December.
So, when it came time for Kline to cut the last of her locks, more than a dozen of her co-workers decided to cut theirs, too.
GIS Specialist Casey Finedell led the movement. He’s worked with Kline during her four-year tenure where she’d moved from customer service to the electrical crew as a meter reader, flagger and locator.
The father of a young child with another on the way, Finedell was extra sympathetic to Kline’s status as a working single mother undergoing cancer treatment.
Kline admitted that when Finedell and others first told her of their intentions, she was sad.
“I didn’t want them to have to lose their hair, too, because of me,” she said.
“But the fact that they were all willing to do it and cared so much about me, I’m just so emotionally grateful to work here and work with the people I do. It’s like a family here at the PUD.”
General Manager Larry Dunbar gave the OK for employees to take time out of their day to participate. Janel Grabner from the billing department, an experienced hair cutter, brought in her heavy duty clippers to do the job.
PUD Commissioner Wayne King of District 3 ordered pizzas for all the participants. Adam Burns, who owns Ferino’s Pizzeria, heard about the effort and contributed a couple extra pies.
On June 19, more than one dozen employees lined up for their custom cuts.
Joining Kline were Finedell and Dunbar, as well as many of the PUD’s line crew: Brian Van Ness, Jon Dehnert, Bill Cooper and Jeremiah Jones. Kline’s fellow meter reader Matt Rivera had his head shaved, as did the three PUD commissioners: Jeff Randall, District 1, Kenneth Collins, District 2, and King.
Her substation and metering department co-workers Colton Worley, David Elias and Tod Eisele, and customer service representatives Maureen Whippy and Drew McKnight participated, as did Resource Manager Bill Graham. Storekeeper Gerrit Van Otten and Staking Engineer Jacob Medley had their heads shaved, too.
Russ Miller, another staking engineer, was out of the office during the event but shaved his head at home later that evening in support.
Graham was proud of his co-workers.
“This was important for a lot of us to do,” he said. “We have been in the trenches together here at the PUD the last few years, and we rely on each other as a team. Marianne would definitely have done it for me.”
“I hope our whole community would do the same thing for someone else,” Kline said.
“I know from experience that supporting someone who is struggling can help give them the strength to carry on in the hardest times of their life.”
Kline felt it is important to tell her story and encourage action.
“The type of cancer I have can be prevented with a vaccine now. I have an 11-year-old daughter. I want kids, especially young girls, to know about it and get that vaccine. If sharing my story helps that happen, it’s worth it.”
The National Cancer Institute suggests HPV (human papillomaviruses) vaccines protect against several viruses that can cause certain types of cancers. The combination of HPV vaccination and cervical screening can provide the greatest protection against cervical cancer.
For more information about the HPV vaccine and cervical cancer visit www.cdc.gov/hpv/
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected].