My view from the right seat

  Jeneal McKinleyMay 20, 2016  

I’ve always loved to travel. By the time I graduated high school I had been in 35 of the 50 states and two foreign countries, so it stood to reason that my choice of careers would involve the airlines. So after high school I attended Atlantic Airlines in Kansas City, Missouri. I had no desire to become a flight attendant, but ground reservations suited my fancy just fine.

Well, as I’m sure you all know, life has a way of not working out the way you had envisioned it. It was the time of Jimmy Carter and long lines at the gas station. Back in Denver, Continental laid off around 800 employees. I knew they would all be hired back before they even gave me a second glance, so I went to work at a local automobile dealership where the office manager took a liking to me and taught me the ins and outs of bookkeeping, a skill that I would use for the next four decades.

My life turned into years of family, horses, 4 H, PTA meetings and life in general. Eventually I got a job in the office of a local construction company where I spent over a decade. This company also owned a gravel pit, so not only did I have to deal with OSHA, I had to deal with MSHA. Because gravel is found near rivers, I had multiple government agencies I had to report to for the “Wetlands Act”. By the time the business was sold, I was ready to just become a data entry clerk. Enter a company by the name of Appliance Solutions, The Maytag Store and a gentleman by the name of Rob Pehkonen, and the rest, as they say is history.

I started as a data entry clerk but an injury on the job and my experience with workers compensation turned me into the Human Resource Department. Rob and I spent hundreds of hours working together, especially after Whirlpool bought Maytag out and it became a huge tangled mess of inventory issues, product availability and all that goes with a merger.

You could not ask for a more kind and giving individual. I would hear him in the office arranging Angel Flights, listening to Christmas music, any time of the year. Rob was also responsible for bringing the Collings Foundation to FNL. Sometime in June he would walk into the office and say, “War birds will be here…” and he would give me a date. From that point on I knew I would be the only one in the office as he would be busy, “in his happy place” as someone called it. I also knew my part in the event. I got on the phones, arranged rooms and meals for the pilots and crew as well as all the accouterments an event that size would need.

That brought me full circle back to the airport and now here I am a member of the FNL Pilots Association. I love being around planes and the atmosphere but I have no desire to become a pilot. I am perfectly happy with my view from the right seat.