Updated: Dec 7, 2022
Gerry Freml, NIPCO Outpost Crew Foreman, has set his retirement date as December 27th, following a 41-year career with NIPCO. Initially hired as a temporary employee to replace a NIPCO lineworker who was injured by electrical contact and out on long-term disability, Gerry knew that his role would be provisional. But he also knew that NIPCO was an organization that backed their employees, and that was the kind of organization for whom he wanted to work. He hoped that, in time, there would be a role for him at NIPCO. Eventually, there was, and Gerry secured his career.
Little did Freml know that the very reason he came to work for NIPCO would be the same one that would benefit him some thirty-four years later: an accident while on the job that kept him out of work for eight months. Freml remembers the call from NIPCO's then-Vice President and General Manager Kent Pauling (ret. 2015), who encouraged him to take the necessary time for recovery. Pauling reassured him that his job was secure. Freml remembers Pauling saying, "Do not worry. You will still be a Foreman."
Says Freml, "That will always be an important moment for me."
Freml is the youngest of six brothers, who have been celebrated as all of them pursued careers as linemen. Gerry's path started in farming in high school but always had an interest in being a lineman. After chatting with his Dad, Gerry was persuaded to follow in his brothers' footsteps.
When asked about his first day, Freml chuckles, "We met up with the Onawa crew and had coffee to get to know one another. Then we went to Griswold with a dump truck and a chipper and cut and chipped trees!"
Freml is proud to have played a role in "…Bringing the NIPCO system to life! Back in the early '80s, we were assisting with installing antennas and equipment at substations required for load management," Freml says. "Before then, they were just metal structures sitting in the dark. Linemen were usually the last to know if a substation was out!" As substations were connected via telecommunications infrastructure to NIPCO's Control Center, they began to share information about their operational status. Line crews could be alerted in real-time and respond immediately. Freml refers to this as "the Birth of Load Management." He is immensely proud to have been a part of its foundation. "We were small enough to afford to do it and family enough that we all had a hand in getting it done."
Freml, a man who realizes the importance of family, will retire two days after Christmas and will enjoy being able to spend extra time with his family, who will be gathered for the holidays. When asked what he will do on his first day of retirement, his answer is eerily similar to that of his first day: "Go have coffee!"
In retirement, Gerry looks forward to spending time with his wife, Diane, and their three children: two girls, a boy, their spouses, and five grandchildren. He plans to head west to hunt, trail-ride in his side-by-side, and even help his son-in-law with his farming operation. Gerry and Diane will be able to spend more time together cultivating their garden and canning and preserving its bounty.
Gerry offers one piece of advice as he prepares to leave NIPCO: "Come to work with a clear head. You need a clear head to work in this business. Leave your troubles at home."