Photo by John F. Russell
Branch Service Manager Teresa Luber escorts Michele Dunklin through the doors of Vectra Bank in Steamboat Springs on Tuesday morning. Dunklin was greeted by co-workers and customers of the bank as she returned to her job as a teller for the first time since being involved in a near-fatal accident in December.
Steamboat Springs A missing piece of the Steamboat Springs Vectra Bank Colorado family returned Tuesday morning when teller Michele Dunklin walked through the door full of smiles and anxious to get back to work.
“I’m excited because I’m ready to be back,” Dunklin said. “I need to be back. Sitting at home and doing nothing is no fun.”
More than seven months ago, the 47-year-old was involved in a near-fatal, Dec. 8 head-on car crash on U.S. Highway 40 just west of Hayden. All but two of her ribs were broken and a piece of her vehicle also had stabbed Dunklin in the side and hit several organs. West Routt Fire Protection District Chief Bryan Rickman made the split-second decision to pull her out of the car quickly and get her to the hospital. He later described the crash as the worst wreck he had seen where everyone survived.
Dunklin underwent numerous surgeries and spent a month in a Denver hospital before being transferred to the Doak Walker Care Center in Steamboat, where she would continue healing.
Her husband, Steve, 14-year-old son, Zach, and other friends and family members helped her through the long recovery process.
“It will be nice to let everyone see that I’m OK instead of me having to tell everybody that I’m OK,” Dunklin said while sitting at her teller station. “I was going to get a hat that says, ‘Don’t ask, I’m OK.’”
She still is sore from the rib and shoulder injuries on her left side that have not healed. That made big bear hugs out of the question, but customers and co-workers could not resist wrapping their arms around her and sharing a few tears during Tuesday’s welcome-back reception.
“I’m going to be glad to be back for my customers,” Dunklin said. “That’s the most exciting thing.”
Dunklin, who will be working about 20 hours each week, is a favorite of many of the bank’s customers, some of whom made a trip to the bank just to welcome her back.
Oak Creek resident and bank customer Jim Meyers said that he had gotten to know Dunklin during the three years she had worked at the bank and that it has not been the same in her absence. He said Dunklin had a great personality and was excellent at remembering the names of customers.
Meyers gave Dunklin a light hug and delivered a welcome-back card.
“I said, ‘Welcome back to the real world, good to see you back, and wish you good luck and good health,’” Meyers said. “I signed it, ‘You go girl.’”
Steamboat Springs resident Gerry Roberts and his wife, Donna, said it was like old times having their personal banker back.
“She’s more than our banker; she’s our friend,” Donna Roberts said. “It’s a great place to bank because of her.”
Branch service manager and Dunklin’s best friend Teresa Luber said it was nice to have Dunklin’s smile and vivacious personality back at the bank.
“She doesn’t realize it, but she has a big following,” said Luber, who moved to Steamboat with Dunklin in 1988. “I think at first it will be challenging and exhausting, but I think it’s just going to take her recovery along quite nicely. I think our biggest challenge is going to be keeping her from doing too much.”
With 27 years of banking experience, Dunklin is capable of doing practically any task, but she said the accident taught her one very important thing.
“I have learned to slow down,” she said. “I have learned not to be so obsessive with getting stuff done, more so at home. I think I just have to take a minute for me sometimes.”
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com