Retirement isn’t the end of the electric line for the Thronson family, as three sons carry on the cooperative tradition.
Thirty years ago, when a vicious storm would roll through Wild Rice Electric Cooperative’s service territory, three young Thronson boys wouldn’t get scared. They would get quiet.
Their dad, Dave, would be out long hours restoring power. He deserved some downtime.
“Whenever I worked all night and came home, they knew they had to be quiet,” Thronson remembers. “You know how kids are – they play a lot. So we always told them to make sure they were quiet so I could rest.”
Now, after more than 35 years at Wild Rice Electric, director of operations Dave Thronson will get the rest he deserves when he retires June 26. But the line won’t de-energize that day, because those three boys at home grew up and became co-op lineworkers themselves, all within Minnkota Power Cooperative’s member systems.
“It was a part of my life,” said Andrew Thronson, Cass County Electric journeyman lineman. “I knew at a young age I wanted to be a lineworker because of him and seeing what he went through with the calls.”
Andrew, 31, and his twin brothers Casey and Chris, 37, all felt the spark and attended line school. Their careers kept them close to home, with Casey now serving as a crew foreman with Red Lake Electric and Chris as a Beltrami Electric journeyman lineman.
“He never pushed us to go into it,” Casey recalled. “He just always said, ‘It’s a good career. I think you guys would like it.’”
“It was a great job to raise a family,” Chris said. “It showed us hard work and what you get out of that.”
“The satisfaction of getting people’s lights on, of them giving you a thumbs-up when you drive by during a storm – that feels like a big accomplishment,” Andrew added.
Dave said he never told his sons “one way or the other” that they should enter into the electricity business, but he knew firsthand how alluring cooperatives could be. He has two brothers-in-law who worked for Cass County Electric and Red River Valley Co-op Power. “I think that’s how I got my interest in it, was from those guys,” he said.
When the Thronson men gather for family get-togethers, the conversation seems to slip into a single current. It’s prime time to discuss what’s happening at different coops and swap tricks of the trade.
“Of course, the wives are looking at us like, ‘C’mon guys, we don’t want to talk about work. We want to visit about other things!’” Dave joked.
All the shop talk in the air may also settle into the minds of the Thronson men’s children – five sons and daughters between the three of them. Like their own father, the lineworkers won’t be guiding their kids into the cooperative world. But they certainly won’t be upset if the generations of power distributors continue.
“I will just do what our dad did with us boys – support her, give guidance and answer any questions,” Andrew said of his 19-month-old daughter.
“Family is a huge deal for all of us,” Chris said. “Our dad values being supportive of each other and helpful.”
The Thronson sons now have an opportunity to support their father in his retirement. They won’t be doing that by staying quiet like when they were boys. “I know the grandkids really like spending time with him, so hopefully he gets more time to do that,” Casey said.
“I hope he has a great retirement. He deserves all the happiness for all of his hard work,” Andrew said. “I’ll miss all the linework talk with him,” he added with a laugh.
Main image: Four men, four cooperatives, one family – the Thronsons are keeping homes powered around the region. Pictured, left to right) Chris Thronson, Beltrami Electric Cooperative; Casey Thronson, Red Lake Electric Cooperative; Andrew Thronson, Cass County Electric Cooperative; Dave Thronson, Wild Rice Electric Cooperative; and Rita Thronson. (Submitted photo)