Custodian brings light to Union life

Larry Brosemer has one of those jobs essential in helping ensure campus days, and nights, run more smoothly. One of those jobs that people don’t really notice, unless it goes undone. One of those jobs that most of us would be complaining about, yet this worker finds rewarding. Brosemer is a custodian.

Brosemer is not just any custodian; he is the custodial supervisor of the Memorial Union at Washburn University. This past February marked his twelfth year working at Washburn. The job keeps him moving almost non-stop, or as one of his co-workers exclaimed, ‘never caught up,’ yet Brosemer is often seen with a smile.

Despite the hard work and lack of glory, Brosemer enjoys what he does. One of the most rewarding aspects to him is getting to see the students. Although most students do not realize all he does to help make their experiences in the Union more pleasant, he is still happy to help them all he can.

“I wish I could spend more time to talk to more of the students but sometimes you don’t have the time,” said Brosemer. “But they realize that.”

Brosemer also did not have time to list all the things he and his staff must accomplish daily, but the partial list is enough to realize why it’s hard to stay caught up. A normal day of custodian work in the Union consists of ensuring all doors are open each morning by 7 a.m., entrances cleared of ice or debris, bathrooms cleaned, floors cleaned, machine parts kept running, trash emptied, and all 13 rooms cleaned. Many tasks are repeated more than once before the door closes each night.

But the closing of the doors doesn’t mean tasks are complete. Brosemer also manages a night crew and is always a call away if needed. Then there are supplies. Brosemer said his job includes a lot of ordering, especially for one special item students need for quality reading. He smiles as he points up to the ceiling.

“We put all the light bulbs in,” said Brosemer.

Brosemer explains how the Union is filled with a variety of light bulbs and how challenging it can be as they ‘burn out at different times.’ Changing them is almost a daily occurrence averaging six to seven bulbs a day. The type of bulb needed must be determined before even climbing up to change one.

For a custodian no two days are alike. Daily expectations are consistent, and the to-do list remains familiar, yet each day tends to bring something extra.

Usually the ‘extra’ consists of special events in the ballroom, such as a scheduled job fair or special speaker. Each event has it’s own specifications for how tables and chairs must be set up. Regulating sound and temperature comfort is also expected. Not to mention any special orders event organizers may request, such as white boards, DVD players, podiums, or dance floors.

Jeremy Graika, one of the day shift custodians, said there are days they set up for an event only to be told it is rescheduled or canceled. Tearing everything down only to set up again for a different event can be stressful.

And what about ‘those’ days which bring the unexpected? Such as when the drain plugged up causing the basement to flood all the way to the bookstore. Or the time Brosemer’s crew had to remove a toilet in order to retrieve a student’s cellphone that was accidentally flushed.

Although students can create extra work Brosemer tries not to complain. He loves the students.

“We haven’t had too many but there’s once in a while we’ll get a student that wants to mark on the walls or something,” said Brosemer. “Usually I try to tell my guys to get it off there as quickly as we possibly can so it doesn’t offend somebody.”

The biggest thing in the bathrooms is that instead of putting paper in the trash cans, people throw it on the floor, often to avoid touching door handles. Brosemer said students can help by throwing their trash away.

“Other than that I think we have a pretty good relationship with the kids,” said Brosemer. “You watch them grow up over the four years. Each year you see them get a little bit more serious about things. So it’s kind of rewarding in that way.”

Being a custodian is actually Brosemer’s third career. He spent around twenty years painting cars. He didn’t realize until later how bad the paint fumes were for his health so he switched to construction. After years of working as a concrete finisher his back begin to suffer so his wife encouraged him to try to find lighter work.

Calling custodian work ‘light’ may seem absurd to most but Brosemer believes in working hard. Technically he could retire soon but thinks he may just stay at Washburn a few more years. He loves the benefits Washburn has to offer.

“Hanging around the young guys keeps me young,” said Brosemer.

Even his life outside Washburn shows Brosemer is ‘young at heart.’ He and his wife of forty six years love to travel, go camping, dance, occasionally ‘donate’ to the casino and ride Harley’s.

Those who work for Brosemer only had good things to say. His fellow custodians describe him as ‘good guy,’ hard worker and perfectionist.

“He’s pretty good to work for. He has jokes,” said Chris Kerr, criminal justice major who is currently a student worker for Brosemer.”If you don’t have anything to do, he will find you something to do ’cause he knows everything about this place.”

Although Brosemer is looking forward to spring and summer break when the Union is a little quieter, he admits that it’s not quite the same without the students.

“I can’t hardly wait to get rid of them the end of the year, but after a month or so you start missing them,” said Brosemer. “ I wish they’d get back pretty pick.”

So next time while in the Memorial Union look up at the light bulbs and think about Larry. And when passing by one of his crew in blue, give a smile and a thank you too. Perhaps these actions will prove Voltaire’s words true when he said, “Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”