After eight years in the same job, some folks would probably be itching to move on to bigger and better things, but not Wendy Cowley. Her position as secretary at Castle Heights Middle School is the culmination of several other occupations and is a "dream come true" for the Price-born native who spent eight years in Provo before returning to Carbon High for her senior year.
"I choose to be here," she said between answering phones or dealing with sick children. "I always wanted to be a secretary or an accountant. It's funny, but I never thought of being a teacher or a nurse or anything but those two things."
After graduation, Cowley began employment at the old Carbon Hospital, starting off in the mailroom and working her way up to insurance billing and then as a nurses' secretary.
"I quit that job to have children," she remembers.
With her husband, Randy ("Pete"), she had three boys. The oldest of which passed away at age 12 from Cystic Fibrosis (also known as CF, it is a common hereditary disease which affects the entire body, causing progressive disability and often early death. The name cystic fibrosis refers to the characteristic scarring - fibrosis - and cyst formation within the pancreas, first recognized in the 1930s).
"That was obviously such a difficult time for us," she recalls. "But we had a lot of support from the community and from family and friends. Everyone really came together for us and Castle View Hospital did such a wonderful job in treating our son."
The recent tragic death of the 11-year-old Creekview Elementary student in an ATV accident brought bittersweet memories to Cowley. "It's never, never easy to lose a child, but our boy was diagnosed with the disease at age two," she said. "We knew this was a fatal sickness and he would leave us early. We were able to spend so much time with him before the end. We were blessed in that regard. We knew our time was short so we made the best of it.
"That poor little boy just went camping with his grandparents and never came back," she added. "His parents had no chance to say good-bye. That's what's so heartbreaking about that situation."
When her other two boys were old enough to be on their own, sort of, Cowley went to work as an aid and then a teacher's secretary at Creekview. That instructor, Dennis Hanson, was later appointed principal at Castle Heights. A year later, needing a school secretary, he evidently remembered Cowley's hard work and dedication.
Cowley doesn't need to convince her co-workers of that, however. "She's very outgoing and energetic and fun," said fellow secretary Shaunna Barney. "She's great to work with, is good with kids and the children just love her."
Cowley, who occupies a desk in the outer office of Principal Jan Cox, is often the first person anyone sees as they enter the room, and her skills at running interference is often a valuable tool for this administration. In addition to her usual secretarial duties, Cowley oft-times acts as a nurse, payroll officer, purchasing agent, attendance clerk, and "resident mom," etc., etc., etc.
"She is one of the most organized people I know," Cox said. "I know that if I ever need anything - from a student's information to a purchase order to whatever - it will be right at her fingertips. She's just an invaluable resource for all of us."
Cowley reciprocates that admiration, as well, saying, "I just love working here. I love Jan, Shaunna, the staff and the children. I mean who wouldn't love working with kids all day?"