News Former SKT Chairman Passes Away
Gordon G. Mikesell, former Chairman of SKT, passed away on June 13, 2021. He was a kind, thoughtful person who cared deeply about others and the communities we serve.
Gordon was born on August 8, 1935. Legend has it that his crib was a desk drawer at the telephone switchboard. In 1940, his parents, Edwin B. and Dorothy E. Mikesell, purchased three telephone exchanges – Atlanta, Burden, and Dexter, Kan., which was the beginning of Southern Kansas Telephone Company. Gordon, along with his older brother Stephen, grew up in Burden, which at that time was the largest of these three exchanges. Of his childhood, Gordon said, “I had many friends and I think I knew everyone who lived in Burden, all 500 of them.” His first job was working in an icehouse, selling and delivering blocks of ice for iceboxes, but of course he also worked at the telephone company. He graduated from Burden High School in 1954, then headed to college, continuing to work weekends and summers for the family business.
Gordon married in 1957, and before reporting to serve in the Army in 1958, he worked fulltime at the telephone company, recalling that season, “At the time we were rebuilding our open wire telephone plant. I spent most of my time setting poles, stringing wire and clearing telephone troubles. During those days I climbed a lot of telephone poles and was quite skillful with a set of hooks and a lineman’s belt. This was a great experience for me in later years for I knew how telephone plant was configured and how it worked. I had some great people to teach me and to work with. I was mentored by my father who knew everything there was to know about telephony.”
After his discharge from the Army, Gordon returned to college to finish his undergraduate degree. Just as he was beginning graduate work, Gordon’s father passed away unexpectedly in 1962 and Gordon recalled, “It was obvious that both Stephen and I were needed to manage the company,” whose headquarters had moved from Burden to Clearwater, Kan. Stephen assumed the position of General Manager and, with Gordon’s training in accounting, he assumed the responsibility for that part of the business. After the death of his brother, Stephen, in 1983, Gordon then assumed the position of General Manager of Southern Kansas Telephone Company.
Gordon retired from SKT in 2010, after a long and successful career. Along with his family, he helped guide the company through acquiring and modernizing telephone exchanges, upgrading phones to dial, converting party lines to one-party telephone service, and developing toll facilities. Gordon also saw through the transition to installing the first company computer system, adding and building cable TV systems, and marketing telephone systems and customer premises equipment. Later in his career, SKT digitalized the company’s central offices, constructed the first fiber ring, and launched dial-up internet service. The company also began providing long-distance telephone service, added wireless phone service, and developed fiber networks with his guidance. In addition, throughout his years in the telephone industry, Gordon served on numerous state and national telecommunications industry associations and was inducted into the Kansas Telecommunications Hall of Fame in 2010. He spent many years dedicated to the civic, economic, and business development initiatives in Clearwater and other Kansas communities that SKT served.
Gordon is survived by his beloved wife, Maxine, sons, Edwin (Colleen) of Goddard and Greg (Monica) of Monument, Colo., seven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
All of us at SKT are thankful for Gordon’s legacy of listening, learning, communicating, and leading by example, guided by his values. A strong work ethic, family, and giving back are all values modeled by the SKT founders and successors – including Gordon G. Mikesell – and they will continue to be priorities at SKT.