Be our Guest: Sheila Guest, beloved assistant AD who retires today, made BHS home for countless athletes
Sheila Guest closes a 36-year career as Bemidji High School's assistant activities director on Wednesday, Dec. 30. "It was just time, and I felt really good about it," she said.
BEMIDJI -- Whenever a Bemidji High School student walked into the activities office, Sheila Guest’s was often the first face they saw.
She’s become a fixture in that office ever since 1984, greeting kids, handling logistics and affectionately giving activities director Troy Hendricks a hard time.
That 36-year era has reached its end as Guest, a beloved cornerstone of BHS athletics, is retiring today.
“The years have gone by so fast. It’s almost scary when you think about it,” she said. “But the school district has done a lot for me and my family. They gave my kids an education, and they gave me a job that I enjoyed coming back to every morning.”
Guest is a 1969 graduate of BHS, and her husband is a ‘67 grad. They sent their three boys through the same system because they valued the education Bemidji Area Schools provided, and Guest continued to make a career out of the office that first recruited her in September 1984.
“It’s a job that I loved every day,” Guest said. “They kept me here, because if it wasn’t for this job, we probably would have moved after our kids graduated. In fact, my husband would say every day, ‘Did you give your notice?’ He retired like 10 years ago. ‘Have you given your notice yet?’ And I’m like, ‘Not yet. I’m just not ready.’”
Unfortunately for the Lumberjacks, COVID-19 has expedited Guest’s retirement. She said she could have lasted another year and a half if all was normal, but the kids are the reason she loves her job -- and they’ve been so sorely missed.
“Sheila’s been in this office for 36 years,” Hendricks said, “and she thrived on the ability to not only associate with me -- which she got enough of -- but to socialize with the coaches and specifically the kids. And she’s stepping away because of it. So we’ve got to figure out what this office is going to look like without her.”
Guest decided it was time to step down at a home football game on Oct. 16. When she got home, she knew, “This was it.” She soon gave her notice to Hendricks, who at least convinced her to stay on through the end of the year.
Sheila Guest, the beloved longtime assistant AD at Bemidji High School, is making her rounds pregame. After 37+ years, tonight's game will be the final one she attends before retiring next month. She has been "the TRUE Pride of the North," as described in a BHS PA announcement.— Micah Friez (@micahfriez) November 21, 2020
“He said, ‘I knew you’d do this to me,’” Guest joked. “It was just time, and I felt really good about it. Whoever comes in now has time to learn. We’re not doing any (activities) until everything opens up, so I’m going to be here, and she’s smart. She’s a real sharp girl.”
Guest has spent her final weeks training in Linda Newby, her replacement and someone she raves about, but the reality of retirement truly started creeping in on her during her final days.
“I don’t like this year. There are no kids,” Guest said. “I miss the kids coming in, the coaches coming in. It’s just kind of a sad office. … If the kids were here, I told Troy I could have made it another year. But this is the longest year ever.”
A Lumberjack legacy
Bemidji High School has accomplished a boatload during the Sheila Guest Era.
The Lumberjacks have won 16 individual and six team state championships since 1984, plus exactly 100 section titles.
She’s seen athletes like George Pelawa, Joe Motzko, Sarah Erickson and Kayla Hirt come through, and she’s worked under some Mt. Rushmore-worthy activities directors.
She named all six ADs off memory without skipping a beat: Jack Luoma, Ray Kavanagh, Mike Barnes, Jim Mergens, Harvey Crable and Troy Hendricks.
“I’ve lost three of them already,” Guest said, referring to Luoma, Kavanagh and Mergens.
Those who have worked with her know Guest’s value. None more so than the current activities director, who’s always just a shout away.
“She would embrace every opportunity given to her to do more,” Hendricks said. “She didn’t mind working. She knew it would benefit the kids. If you were ever here during the school day, when we actually had kids here, they’re coming in here all the time. And that’s what we wanted. I have to credit Sheila for creating that environment in this office, which kids want to be a part of.”
READ MORE: Troy Hendricks crowned Pioneer Sportsperson of the Year
Guest prided herself on attending events and congratulating students on good games in the hallway the next morning. She never missed a football game, and she was a constant at the gym, rink and field to watch other teams compete.
“I’d see them make the baskets or catch the football or do a good block, and that’s all I ever wanted to learn about sports: what they achieved,” Guest said. “It’s not a win and a loss, it’s how they played and if they gave their all. That’s what I liked.”
Without Guest working behind the scenes, the Lumberjacks will lose one of their most loyal and longest-tenured cheerleaders once sports resume next month. In retirement, she and her husband plan to travel to Arizona during the winter months because “the winters get colder and colder as you get older.” But she’ll always keep the northland close to her heart.
“Bemidji will always be our home,” she said. “Plus, I’ll have to keep harassing Troy.”