She was a BEA Legend
For over 40 years Myrna Pirsig was an icon at Blue Earth Area Schools.
For most of those years she was the assistant to the athletic director. But, as many people know, that meant she wore a lot of different hats.
She was known as the “copy lady,” the “laundry lady,” and the “boss lady” of the concession stand.
Myrna Pirsig passed away last week, on Friday, Jan. 3, at the age of 85.
A lot of people may not remember that Myrna started out her career at BEA Schools with her first job being the “playground lady.”
“My dad wanted my mom to be a farm wife, and not work outside the home,” Myrna’s son, David, says. “But Mom got this job as a playground supervisor at the school.”
It was only a few hours a day, and Myrna would tell her husband Ed she had to run to town for something or other.
That part time position led to her full time job in the athletic department and she had to confess she was working. She was the assistant for Chuck Beyer first, then Dick Maher and finally Rob Norman.
There was a lot of work to be done in those “olden” days. There were no computers or email and part of Myrna’s work was setting schedules, helping hire the referees and typing up all kinds of things on a typewriter at first.
And when the school got some new copiers, she became in charge of the machines and spent hours running off programs, booklets, schedules and the famous Bucky Calendar plus a whole lot more.
“She was busy back then with her regular job, and that didn’t include the concessions at first,” David Pirsig says. “That didn’t come along until later in the 1970s.”
It seems the concession stand was not doing well financially or operationally. So, Myrna was asked by Dick Maher to take it over. And, like everything she did, she was determined to do it well.
“The concession stand in the Lee R. Pemberton Auditorium was the smallest one in the South Central Conference,” Pirsig says. “But it was the busiest.”
Part of the reason was that it served as an area gymnasium and hosted lots of wrestling tournament, basketball tournaments, and many other events.
Back then, Myrna had assistants from students in groups like FFA, FHA and Student Council, to name a few.
“Mom would always shake her head because the smartest kid in the school sometimes didn’t know how to make change, and she would have to teach them,” Pirsig says. “That and the fact that maybe only one kid would show up to work a shift.”
Other groups would take over the concession stand, like for weekend little kid wrestling tournaments. They would come to Myrna for information and advice on how to run the stand.
“She would tell them she would come to the stand and help them,” Pirsig says. “She would say ‘see you at 6 a.m.’ and then stay all day and help them run it.”
That included cleaning up the stand and mopping the floor so it would be ready for its next use. There might be a Saturday tournament but she wanted it clean and ready for a Monday game before she left the place on Saturday.
The laundry deal came next.
The staff person doing the laundry for the sports teams and phy ed classes was let go when budget cuts were needed to be made.
The plan was that the kids would bring their own towels from home, and take those towels and their uniforms home to wash.
“Mom said ‘that’ll never work,’ because the laundry would not be done properly,” Pirsig says. “So she said ‘I’ll just do it,’ and she did.”
The coaches were amazed at how the laundry mysteriously all got done on time. They were not sure who was doing it, or when.
Then there was the time Myrna fell and broke her hip while she was mopping out the concession stand. She still went to work the next day, but by the following Monday she could not lift her leg and went into the hospital.
“She had everyone who was going to fill in for her come to the hospital and gather around her bed, so she could instruct them on how to do things right,” Pirsig says. “Someone told her to just rest and that ‘we got this.’ She said, ‘no, you don’t. You need to listen to me.'”
Myrna could have also added “unofficial lunchroom lady” to her many titles.
“She loved the lunch ladies, the cooks, at the school,” Pirsig says. “Whenever there was an event or banquet at the school she would say she needed to go and help. We would say, but you are not a school cook. She would reply, but they need my help, and go and put on an apron and help out.”
Maybe “nurse lady” and “behavior advice lady” could be more titles.
With only one school nurse covering three buildings, Myrna often took charge when the nurse was not there and a student came in and said they were not feeling well.
“She sometimes knew they were just faking it and told them they could stay for five minutes and then get back to class, telling them they would be just fine,” Pirsig says. “And when kids were there to visit the principal because of bad conduct, she would ask ‘why are you here?’ and then tell them they really needed to behave better in school.”
It was something she really believed in. At her retirement party in April of 2013, she told all the students, past and present, who were there, “All you kids, just be good kids. Life will be a lot easier if you are good.”
“I don’t know how she did it, how she did it all,” Pirsig says. “She could be overwhelmed with work and someone would need something done and she always said yes. And she never said it would be done in a day or two, it would be done by the next morning.”
And with it all, she was also still a farm wife, organizing all the bean walkers, who were mainly some students from school. She also found time to make lunch and supper pails for all the farm workers.
“She was the most dedicated worker I have ever met in my life,” says BEA activities director Rob Norman. “She was the backbone of this school for years. She took care of so many things, for whoever, whenever. Way more than just being the AD assistant. She was always the first one here in the morning, and the last one to leave at night.”
If anyone had a question about anything, they went to Myrna for the answer not the AD, the principal or the superintendent. Myrna always had the answers.
That dedication to Blue Earth Area is because Myrna loved the school, loved the students, faculty, staff, the administrators, the coaches, and even all the parents, her son says.
AD Norman agrees. He has kept an anonymous poem about Myrna in his files for years.
It ends with the line, “Perhaps she is best portrayed as everyone’s mother.”