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Herald Palladium
September 23, 2013
by Julie Swidwa


Flyin Flo lands at airport
Flo Shepard

 

Flo Shepard = Flyin' Flo lives in Hartford MI Don Campbell / HP staff

Flo Shepard, office manager at the Southwest Michigan Regional Airport is pictured Friday. The 72-year-old has a lot of experience in the air, having worked for United Airlines.


Flo Shepard has been up in the air a lot in her life, but now shes enjoying the ground game

Its fitting that the view out Flo Shepards huge office window includes an airport runway. Shes been around airplanes all her adult life. Shes flown all over the world. As the office manager at the Southwest Michigan Regional Airport in Benton Harbor, Shepard does a little bit of everything including, she jokes, keeping airport manager Lee Scherwitz in line. At 72, she said she has no immediate plans to retire.

Although she was born and raised in Chicago, her family had a summer house on Paw Paw Lake even before she was born. So she feels at home in Southwest Michigan. She and her husband live in Hartford. Shepard chatted recently with Herald-Palladium Staff Writer Julie Swidwa.

Tell me about how you ended up living and working here.


Ive been here since 2000. We moved up here when my children were in grammar school. They had 56 kids in their classroom in Chicago and they werent doing very well. So we decided to move to Michigan. My husband Larry works over at R.A. Mort Supply.

Where did you work before?


I worked for United Airlines in Chicago, right out of high school. I was a secretary. Then I went into reservations. It was exciting at that age. The traveling I got free travel because I worked for the airlines. Ive flown a lot. Ive been around the world. Im very content now to spend my time in Michigan. I enjoy the slow lifestyle. The people know you and theyre friendly. You can go into a restaurant and they call you by name. They know what you want before you order it. You dont ever have that in Chicago.

Was Lee the director when you started here?


I came as a temp, and they hired Lee right after that. Lee knelt down here and begged me to stay. He gave me a short leash and told me I could keep him on it, if Id only stay. He actually gave me his references, and I wouldnt call them but he called them for me and made me talk to them, about what a nice person he was to work for.

So whats he like to work for?


Oh, hes wonderful. I can tell him what to do. That doesnt mean he does it. It goes in one ear and out the other. But he lets me do it.

Tell me about what you do as the office manager.


Im the office manager but I do everything. We only have three full-time people Lee, myself and a fella who started in January who replaced John Chaddock, whod been here for 40 years. So Mike is learning the maintenance and field operations, Lee does all the political and all that kind of stuff, and I do the work while everybody else does their thing. I do accounts receivable, accounts payable, I pay the bills, I do everything, and I love it because I can sort of do it at my own pace. As long as I get everything done nobody bugs me. I have no reason to retire. Something will cause me to retire, but I dont have anything pushing me out the door.

Thats great, to be happy in a job at what could be retirement age.


When you get older you can say what you want because youve sort of earned the right to offer your opinion. You can offer your opinion, and it carries a little more weight than when you were younger.

What do you like to do besides your job?


I have (three) dogs. I was very involved with dogs for years and years. I used to do tracking and obedience. It got to the point physically where it got to be too hard for me. My daughter has four horses, and I have one. I would like to ride again. Its on my bucket list. My horse is only a year old. Shes not old enough to ride yet. But I intend to.

Anything I havent asked you that youd want people to know about you?


No, not really. But I should sing the praises of the airport. I think the airports fantastic. When we got here things were terrible. This was not a nice place to be. Financially it was a terrible place, and now everybody says Whoa, what did you guys do? Its no secret. We just ran it like its a business. You dont spend money unless youve got it to spend. Thats my solution. Dont spend money if you dont have it.

You think Lee has been a big part of turning this place around?


Yes. I think the whole airport staff has, not just Lee. He cannot do it by himself. Theres nine of us all together. The others are part-timers, including a lot of part-time firemen. They cut grass, do maintenance, plow snow in the winter. Around here we dont go home if its snowing out. Its a big thing to plow snow here. One of the things we take great pride in is the runways are always open.

 


Information for this web site was gathered from personal interviews, newspaper articles, scrapbooks, personal photo albums, and other documented materials - many available to the public at the Hartford Public Library or Van Buren County Historical Museum.  Please report any typographical errors, updated information, or incorrectly stated information to the webmaster for correction.  Reprinting for personal and instructional purposes is permitted, however, unauthorized commercial reprinting of this information or unauthorized linking to photos-pictures on this site is strictly prohibited without written permission from the webmaster. 



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A Pictorial History of Hartford, Michigan
Emma Thornburg Sefcik,
Competent Secretarial Service
Copyright 2000 - All rights reserved.


Revised: March 20, 2014