JOB: Since 1981, Kathy Schluter-Krewson has been a groundsworker for the UI. She does jobs that range from picking up litter to planting flower beds. In the summer she mows dozens of acres and in the winter she cleans snow off miles of sidewalks. She and her two children, Clint, 15, and Jessica, 8, live in a house her grandparents built near Gifford.
You've been doing this for 19 years. What kinds of things have you done?
Soon after I was hired as a groundsworker I was approached to help the gardener at the president's residence. For about eight years, I would work there from April to November and then come back and be a campus groundsworker through the winter months.
Then I went to work for the tree crew for about eight years. I really became interested in it so I became a certified arborist. I actually had thoughts of becoming a tree surgeon but it is very physically demanding. And I realized that as I'm getting older, I can't climb trees.
So two years ago I started working out of the barn here as a campus groundsworker.
Do you have to be out in all kinds of weather?
All kinds of weather. That's the one thing about this job -- we're outside every day regardless of the weather. So you have to be prepared. We have raincoats, we put rubber boots on, and in the winter you just wear more layers. This time of year, you realize it was worth the wait and that when spring comes you've got eight months of decent weather again.
What will you be doing for spring?
Pretty soon we'll be starting to mow. We're spraying for weeds this week.
What do you like about your job?
The people that I work with. A group of us got hired in the early '80s so we are all kind of maturing together. We started here as these young people and now we're in our 40s, and I think of us as an extended family because we know each other so well.
And I love being outside. I cannot imagine having an office job.
When I took this job I thought it would be a temporary one until I found my 'real' job. But I'm still here 19 years later. I realized this is what I like. This is what I want to do.
I have a degree in social work and administration of justice from Southern [Illinois University at Carbondale]. I worked in probation and parole for about a year and realized it was just draining me. I got too involved with the people and I'd take it home and worry. With this job, I can go home and not think about it again until the next morning when I come back.
And it's fun. Not too many people think of their work as fun, but I do.
What do you like the least about your job?
Probably in the winter when there's a blizzard and I get a call at 2 a.m. for me to come in at 4 or 5 for snow removal on the sidewalks. I'm always glad when winter's over.
How many women are groundsworkers?
There are four of us out of 24 year-round groundsworkers.
You live in the country near Gifford. What do you do when you get home? Yard work?
Yard work. Yes. Well, after I get a load of laundry going.
You do it all week long and then go home and do more yard work?
Yeah. [She laughed.] I have a pretty big yard. It's where my grandparents lived. It started out with a one-room schoolhouse sitting there so it's got the old merry-go-round and the old ash trees. I imagine those trees are well over 100 years old.
I've planted different areas of the yard with themes, like there's a shade garden and then a little walkway through the back where it's sunnier and there are more perennials. And I have an area that's all natural wildflowers. I spend a lot of time out there. It's kind of therapeutic.
What do you do for fun?
I listen to bluegrass music and I've gone to bluegrass festivals. I love the musical instruments. I don't play any. But I've got a good beat. And I can dance. Really!
And lately I've become more active in my church. That's fulfilling to me. I find something there I need.
Did you go the traditional route from high school to college and then into a job?
Well, I went to high school and college and then I traveled a couple of years. I went to Europe twice as a working youth. I got a Eurorail pass and traveled around Europe and it was wonderful. I highly recommend traveling like that. It made me realize what it's like in different places.
That's why I like being where I am. I don't plan on ever leaving Illinois. This to me is where I want to be, even after retirement.
This might sound strange but I think Illinois is a beautiful state. Every day when I drive back and forth to work I'm just touched by the beauty of it. The changing seasons, and when there's snow on the ground there's like this tundra. You can see forever and ever. And then when it's greening up there is this patchwork. And maybe because I have traveled around the mountains and all, I know that Central Illinois is where my heart is.