Steamboat Springs Bessie Jo Rienks kept the books for the Solandt Memorial Hospital in Hayden and the hospital district for 47 years. On July 6, she turned them in for the last time.
Rienks and her husband, Beryl, moved from Hayden to Grand Junction 4 1/2 years ago. Bessie Jo had continued the accounting work from afar, but she decided it was finally time to step away.
"When I came home (July 6) after leaving the books, it was like, 'Wow, what did I just do? This was the last,'" Rienks said. "But I think I'm going to enjoy it, not having to worry about it."
The Rienks' children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren live in the Grand Junction area. Bessie Jo said she and Beryl were looking forward to attending all their sporting events and spending time with the family. The couple also tends to their fruit trees and grapes - and enjoys some gambling in Mesquite, Nev.
However, it was hard to leave Hayden, Bessie Jo said.
"I really miss the people," she said. "We don't miss the snow, and all of our kids are down here, so we're enjoying the grandkids and the sports activities. That means a lot. We do miss our friends down there."
Rienks was an impeccable worker and an asset to the community, said Kathy Hockin, president of the Solandt Hospital Board. Hockin spoke about Rienks warmly and at length.
"She's always solid," Hockin said. "She's a dear friend, someone you could confide in. : I guess a salt-of-the-earth kind of person. Never, ever did I hear about her as someone hard to get along with."
Bessie Jo was born in Craig, and Beryl was born in Mount Harris. The two married in 1953 and lived in Hayden until they moved to Grand Junction. Beryl worked at the Seneca Mine.
Solandt Memorial Hospital was built in 1923 and closed as a full-service hospital in 1966, five years after Bessie Jo started working there.
"I think the biggest challenge was seeing the hospital close when it had been there for so long," she said of her tenure. Her mother-in-law was one of the last patients. She died in November 1966 in the hospital.
Bessie Jo's knowledge of the hospital's past also has been helpful, Hockin said.
"When we were trying to get the hospital dedicated as a Routt County historical landmark, she was the one who had so much of the history; she could document it," Hockin said. "She's just one of those people who's a cornerstone of the community."
Solandt now serves as a satellite office for medical professionals. Bessie Jo has done the bookkeeping for that, and she did the books for Steamboat Medical Group until the late 1990s.
Bessie Jo said she doesn't really have formal accounting training and learned most of what she knows on the job at a car dealership in Rangley, where she went to high school. Her employer there taught her what she wanted Bessie Jo to know. Bessie Jo also has done medical records and was trained in that area.
Hockin said the town was sad to see the Rienkses leave, describing it as a "huge loss" for the Hayden community.
"I think she was excited to move," she said of Bessie Jo. "The winters were getting hard, and the kids were down there, and the grandkids. I think it was time for them to move."
Bessie Jo is a comfortable and loyal person to be around, Hockin said. The hospital board unanimously wanted to keep her as the bookkeeper as long as possible, she said.
"As long as she wanted to do it, she was welcome," Hockin said. "She was dependable; she was responsible; she was pleasant. All the things you want people to be who work for or with you, she was."
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