By Robert Tomlinson
The walk to the mechanical room of Lawson Arena when it flooded in 2014 turned into more of a wade. Water came up to chest-level, and the musty, wet smell of the basement area was readily apparent.
Opening the door to the room, a devastating scene was beheld. Everything that wasn’t bolted down was floating away. Crawling over a floating bench in the doorway was the only way in to shut off the water from a burst pipe.
“Picture walking down in your basement, getting five steps down, and [it] being filled with water,” Lisa Soule, a skilled trades helper at Western Michigan University, said. “That’s what it was like.”
Soule, 52, was one of the Maintenance Services employees involved in the Lawson flood cleanup. This was one of the most challenging jobs she has been a part of in her 32-year career at WMU.
Soule has had many different roles since she started at WMU in April of 1985. She started out in Dining Services, where her mom started working a year prior. After that, she moved to Landscape Services, and after some time there, moved to a 4o-hour-a-week job at Maintenance Services. She is planning on retiring in two and a half years.
A typical month for Soule has her complete 30 to 40 job orders, ranging anywhere from window blind replacements to high-water alarms at places like Lawson. Some of her jobs, primarily in buildings on the west side of campus, require shopping for materials from Menards, Lowe’s and other hardware stores. She describes this part of the job as being a “gopher.”
In her free time, Soule raises horses on her farm in Scotts, Mich., southeast of Kalamazoo.