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Lebanon Landfill worker calls it a career after decades of helping people with waste

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    On his way to get rid of his trash at the Lebanon Waste and Recycling Facility, Eben James, of Lebanon, presents a gift to Ed DeNike III, 63, on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, his last day of work after 31 years on the job at the Lebanon, N.H., landfill. New Hampshire Sen. Sue Prentiss, D-West Lebanon, left, and Lebanon Mayor Tim McNamara, right, were on hand to celebrate DeNike's service to the city. "He makes the dreary task of coming to the dump something to look forward to," said James of DeNike's welcoming smile at the scalehouse. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — James M. Patterson

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    Ed DeNike, second from right, recalls scaring a murder of crows out of the trees on the Lebanon mall while working a snow-removal shift for the city during a farewell lunch with co-workers, from left, Butch Carpenter, Shane Smith, and Shawn Labelle, at the Lebanon Solid Waste and Recycling Facility on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. "He really took ownership of his job," said Carpenter. "He's going to be hard to replace." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — James M. Patterson

  • Lyn Swett Miller, right, thanks Ed DeNike for his years working the scale at the Lebanon landfill on his last day before retirement in Lebanon, N.H., on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. DeNike has become known for his consistently kind and friendly demeanor when greeting customers. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/18/2021 6:32:19 AM
Modified: 12/18/2021 6:32:06 AM

LEBANON — Ed DeNike’s well-wishers kept streaming in Friday as he worked his last shift as a scale operator at the Lebanon landfill after 31 years. Longtime customers asked for his number so that they could stay in touch; an old high school classmate gave him white chocolate and gingerbread cookies; and everyone made sure to share some last wine suggestions with DeNike, who has the taste buds and knowledge of an experienced sommelier.

“We always looked forward to seeing him because he was just very friendly and affable. He always asked how we were,” said Stan Colla in a phone interview. “He made it fun to go to the landfill.”

Whenever DeNike spotted an interesting empty wine bottle in the back of the car, he’d start up a conversation with Colla, whose son owns a vineyard in California. Colla made sure to stop by earlier in December because he knew he would be out of town on DeNike’s last day.

Most know DeNike simply as “Ed,” the name embroidered in yellow on his blue Lebanon Public Works sweatshirt. He served people up and down the Upper Valley, and he became the public face of Lebanon, Mayor Tim McNamara said. DeNike also made a trip to the landfill “my happiest time of the week,” McNamara said.

On Friday, state Sen. Sue Prentiss, D-West Lebanon, stopped by to present DeNike with a resolution from the Senate thanking him for 31 years of service.

“I have found that the outpouring of love and gratitude in the last month since I gave my notice has just been — it’s been a little emotional. It really has just been amazing,” DeNike said. Every few minutes, a customer rolled down their window to say how much he would be missed.

“It’s all service,” DeNike said, and that’s what he loves about the job. His mother and his grandfather taught him how to serve: “Be humble, be kind and treat people the way you want to be treated.”

He educated hundreds of people about how to dispose of their waste. He helped customers through the difficult task of clearing out a deceased loved one’s home, and he will never forget the woman who rescued an heirloom diamond ring from the last bag in a dumpster.

He didn’t want a large retirement party. Instead, he ate Buffalo pizza with other members of the “old guard” in the Lebanon landfill’s brightly lit break room. When tested by a customer, he recommended a dry Riesling with Buffalo wings — the “sweetness offsets the spice,” he said. But on Friday, they stuck to Coca-Cola.

“The dedication” is what will make Butch Carpenter, a solid waste technician, miss working with DeNike. “You can always count on him.”

But DeNike has noted a change at the landfill in his last years. These days, only seven or eight people attend the local union meetings for the AFSCME, a public service union that represents public works employees.

“You guys know the frustrations,” he said to his co-workers. “There’s no camaraderie, no sense of duty.”

DeNike, who just turned 63, did two tours in the military, which he credits for his commitment to his job.

The first thing DeNike plans to do is “sleep for a couple of weeks,” relish the Saturdays he gave up every other week for nearly half his life, and complete projects around his house in Enfield. With a pension and a house near Crystal and Mascoma lakes that became a “boatload of equity” over the years, he can enjoy his retirement.

He has lots planned. He may start a business with the knowledge and certifications he gained during his decades-long career in waste management. He will also post more regularly on “Ed’s Wine Blog,” where he reviews wines, pairings and vineyard destinations in descriptive prose. Wine became a passion after his doctor told him he needed to give up beer years ago and he started taking out books on wine from the library.

“For me, it’s just a geek thing,” he said. “That’s it. That’s how my brain works. I just wanted to know more about it.”

And now he can visit more of America’s wine country. He will also pan for the soft, yellow Vermont gold that fills the center of his and his wife’s wedding bands. A customer at the landfill, “an old-timer who has since passed away,” showed him the ropes years ago and he has been hooked ever since.

DeNike, whose mother is Swiss, will have more time to visit his European relatives who always give him a place to stay and a car to use. The pandemic stymied his plan to ship his Miata to Europe and motor through the Swiss Alps. In the spring, though, he hopes to hit the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Montana’s Glacier National Park, riding motorcycles with an old friend.

But the Upper Valley is home, and as he assured his many customers, “I’ll be around.”

Claire Potter is a Report for America corps member. She can be reached at or 603-727- 3242.

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