Tenured professor of mechanics | VailDaily.com

Tenured professor of mechanics

Kathy Lippert/Vail DailyByron Stanley, 83, shows off the work he performs on Vail police vehicles. Stanley has worked for the town for 35 years.

VAIL ” When Byron Stanley wakes up in the morning, he knows he’s going to work. He likes that certainty.

His work retrofitting police cars for the town of Vail keeps his mind and hands moving.

“It keeps me occupied, keeps me active and keeps me associated with this crazy bunch,” Stanley, 83, said.

Stanley was recently was recognized by the town for 35 years of service. He’s the first person to reach that plateau in Vail.

He installs radar, radios, flashing lights and everything else a police car needs for its transformation from a factory-issued Ford Explorer. His co-workers ” whom he’s quick to joke with ” rely on his knowledge and marvel at his agelessness. And as far as he knows, he said, he will reach his 40th anniversary with the town.

“I have no plans to retire yet,” he said.

At one time, Stanley did want to retire. He and his wife had plans to travel around the country in their trailer. But she died in 1984.

“When I lost her, there was nothing else to do but work,” he said.

Stanley, who lives in Edwards, has two grown children and one grandchild. He was born in Kansas City, Mo., and in his early life lived in Windsor, Swink, Ordway and Denver. His grandfather was James Naismith, inventor of basketball.

“He was just Papa Naismith to me,” Stanley said. “He was a big, burly man, but as gentle as they come.”

When Stanley arrived in the Eagle Valley in 1950, Vail didn’t exist. He went to work at the Eagle Mine in Gilman, where his father was a doctor. Stanley worked in Gilman for 20 years as a watchman and in the personnel department.

“It was real small and a lot of people were congenial there,” he said.

The mine partially closed in 1971, and Stanley turned down an offer for a transfer to the east. His last day at the mine was June 6, and he started with the town of Vail on June 7, driving a snowplow. He’s worked for the town ever since. He later became a mechanic for the town.

Co-worker Jim Hervert said Stanley’s knowledge is encyclopedic. Stanley knows the mechanics’ storeroom, filled with hundreds of parts, like the back of his hand, Hervert said.

“You can ask Byron and he’ll just walk to it,” Hervert said.

Another co-worker, Bob Riggle ” who was delivered as a baby by Stanley’s father in Gilman ” remembered Stanley zooming ahead of the competition on a tricycle during Vail’s now-defunct Great Race.

The county has grown exponentially since Stanley arrived. It’s with a measure of regret that he remembers chatting with Emmett Nottingham about buying a plot of land where Vail is now.

“Old Emmett said, ‘Pick a spot, and we can work it out,'” Stanley said.

Though he said he prefers the rural version of Eagle County, he is stoic about the growth. “Progress, there’s nothing you can do about it,” he said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.

Vail, Colorado

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