Brian AmRhein: Following in his grandfather’s boot steps

Posted on Jul 01 2017 in Features

Brian AmRhein, a lineman for Decatur County REMC, greets kids at a playground during the co-op’s community service day last year.

When Decatur County REMC lineman Brian AmRhein began his career at the Greensburg-based electric cooperative he had some pretty big boots to fill. His grandfather, William Howard “Willy” AmRhein, was a lineman and construction foreman at the REMC from the 1950s until 1976. Though AmRhein, who was born in 1978, never met his grandfather, nevertheless, he thinks about him everyday.

While replacing an old utility pole, Willy AmRhein and a fellow lineman, Larry Roszell, were electrocuted. The senior AmRhein was killed trying to save Roszell. He was 47 years old.

Brian AmRhein selected his grandfather’s photo as his cell phone’s wallpaper because whenever he sees it, he’s reminded to always focus on safe work practices. That’s something he’s been committed to throughout his 10 years at the REMC.

An Army veteran who served in Iraq, AmRhein admits during his two years there, “I saw a side of humanity I never thought existed. Like they say in the movie ‘Fury’: ‘Your eyes see it, but your head can’t make no sense of it.’

Willy AmRhein, Brian’s late grandfather, was also a lineman for the REMC. AmRhein keeps the photo close — it’s his cell phone’s wallpaper — to remind him to always focus on safety. His grandfather, who he never met, was electrocuted on the job.

“I’ve seen a lot of destruction and bad things. But I saw good things in a lot of the Iraqi people,” he said. He recalls them — especially the children — being happy to see the servicemen and women and “singing songs of praise” to them.

His time in the Middle East influenced him so much that he was thrilled to volunteer for the Project Indiana mission trip in 2015, during which Indiana electric cooperative linemen electrified two rural villages in Guatemala. Once again, being able to impact the lives of children was a high point of the trip. “It’s all about the kids,” the father of three said. “They are the future.”

AmRhein’s other volunteer efforts include participating in a “Battle of the Beards” fundraising challenge for the American Cancer Society last fall and helping out with the REMC’s annual Community Day philanthropic projects. As far as he’s concerned, making others’ lives better is “therapy” for him, a way to erase some of the destruction he saw while stationed in Iraq.

And, so, just as his late grandfather continues to influence him, AmRhein has a similar motivation. “One thing I hoped I’ve done is made an impact … and made relationships.”