She told me that I should get a pilot's license, she partnered with me in buying an Archer II, She helped me build our RV-6A, she raced with me all over the country and she traveled with me all over the world. She died tonight at Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas from complications of breast cancer. I know those of you that met her at Oshkosh, LOE, AVC and all the SARL races and the Aircraft Spruce and USAR races before that would want to know.
I have always thought the job comes first. When I completed my enlistment in 1957 I got out of the Air Force with a High School Equivalency via GED (obtained during Basic Training at Lackland AFB) and hit the employment offices every day, coming back to the one I really wanted McDonnell Aircraft at least once a week. Being a Great Depression baby and 5 months without work as an adult I really knew that I had to get a job and hold onto it if I was going to build a meaningful life. I had the option of a Grade I aircraft electrician or and lower Grade II Radio & Electrical Inspector. Something about the inspector's job appealed to me and I took that job at lower pay as a R&E II Inspector on the F-101B. Lesson 1
, evaluate the potential of the job if you have options to select the one with the most potential. I heard about company technical classes given by the training department and I took them at night. About 8 months later I heard about this elite class of RE&E Inspector that required a test to even qualify for consideration. I took the test, passed it and a few months later was named as one of the three original RE&E Inspectors on Project Mercury. Lesson 2
when you are a grunt in the ranks you have to do things of technical merit to pull yourself up. I worked on Mercury and in the engineering lab until I had accumulated 5 years of experience. There was a test for supervision and it was offered to three R&E Inspectors over in the Electronic Equipment Division but it was not offered to me so I went to my foreman and asked why not? He was surprised that I asked but he arranged with the Training Department and I took it, passed and was given the job as assistant foreman Final Assembly and Test. Lesson 3
speak up if there is a opportunity you feel you are qualified for but are not given the opportunity to try. After working that job and building a reputation as a firm but fair supervisor controlling the accept/reject operation for the production effort I realized that there was a part of our operation that required more independent thought and gave more responsibility even though the title and pay were the same - Receiving Inspection. The man running that had a large bonded area and a clean room where he controlled everything including material handlers, visual inspectors, machine parts inspectors, electrical and electronic technicians, document processors, material flow, expediting interface, everything. The guy that was running it was having a rough time so I asked to take that job. As hard as it may seem to an outsider it was thrilling. After a couple of years I was promoted to full foremen. Lesson 4
Some times you have to take risks to get ahead. This goes on for 50 years in aerospace so I will cut it short. I met this Girl named Jeanine and during a date at a public swimming pool in South St. Louis I casually mentioned I would like to go to college and get a degree in Business Administration - to which she responded "Why don't you?" - which left me without a good answer. I enrolled at night at Washington University in St. Louis and I started working on it - hard. 5 years later I got the BSBA graduating number 4 or 5 in my class and during that time I had been promoted to General Foreman of Quality Control for the whole company and my girl friend and I were married (the absolute greatest day of my life). Lesson 5
Formal education is the great enabler - even for a hard worker. At that point the company was not growing and I knew I had no more potential there so I volunteered to take a 3 grade cut to a position of a resident representative for the McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Company - East covering Nash Contrrols, Sperry and Westinghouse on the east coast for the development of the Harpoon Control Fin Actuator, the Harpoon Shipboard Command and Launch System and the Harpoon Data Processor. It meant I would be separated from my wife for 7 months but I felt I needed to get the experience in other companies without leaving my company. It required very long 2 digit hour days and 7 days a week, all volunteer of course (no extra pay) but that was what was required to get the job done right. It was a big success and I was assigned to Eagle-Picher in Joplin Missouri to cover the development of the large Skylab NiCad batteries. While I was there I covered several special batteries developed for MDAC-E and MAC products. When the Skylab job was complete they were going to lay me off. I interviewed several places but no one was interested. I sent a memo/letter (believe it or not there was a time without e-mail) to the director of personnel at MCAIR who had been the director of MDEC personnel and he directed a new interview and I got the job 6 hours before I was to hit the street. Lesson 6
you are never safe and do what ever is nessessary to avoid being unemployed including begging. I got two more degrees including a masters and passed the Missouri Engineering exam, etc. etc. and changed companies when necessary to stay employed and progress before I could ever afford the luxury of flying. It was the same girl that suggested I go to school that suggested that it was time to satisfy my desire to be a pilot. It worked out and I retired finally from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena in 2004 with great pay and having worked on many special projects at very high levels for a under educated boy from southern Indiana. Lesson 7
keep everything in perspective. Tomorrow (1-9-12) is the Funeral of that wonderful girl and I would gladly give it all for one more minute with her.