Sometimes we who work in aviation lose sight of the real purpose of our industry. I had a real life reminder this week.
On Tuesday, I was close to the end of a business trip when I got a call from my sister-in-law that my father-in-law had been admitted to the hospital and was not expected to survive. He was in Champaign, Illinois. I was in San Diego, my wife in Virginia and my brother-in-law in Florida.
In just over 7 hours, all three of us were together at Chicago O’Hare. We met a niece who lives there and got down to Champaign. The next few days are precious memories none of us will ever forget.
This was made possible by aviation. It was made easier by the people who took care of my schedule changes at United, the San Diego Westin and Hertz. Also by the taxi driver who got my wife to Dulles in time and the entire great airport staff at O’Hare, who helped my wife when she was trying to locate my gate and her brothers. And, by the folks at USA3000 and also the Southwest Florida International Airport in Ft Myers who got my brother-in-law’s changes taken care of.
Those of us who work in aviation make such moments possible every day and we should remember that.
Allow a personal indulgence while I say a word about my father-in-law. His name was Elmer Lukeman and he was one of the finest human beings I’ve ever met.
He never bragged about anything even though he was in two sports halls of fame, served in the Army during WWII, owned a successful business for nearly five decades and always beat me at golf. He was president of almost every civic group in his hometown of Jacksonville, Illinois, and worked hard to bring new business to the area.
I’m an Italian-Irish kid from Jersey and he grew up in the Illinois cornfields — we didn’t have folks named Elmer in New Jersey. We had little in common and we had everything in common. He showed me a lot about how to be a husband and father, and also taught me to stay away from airline and “dot com” stocks. He taught me how to re-invest dividends thereby making possible my sons’ educations. He taught me how to pick up the check. He taught my sons incalculable lessons about life. And, he raised me a helluva wife.
He wasn’t famous by conventional standards, but everyone who ever made his acquaintance would smile at the mention of his name.
We can use a lot more people like that in today’s world.
He did so much for so many and I am proud to be part of an industry that made possible our being with him, and that makes such stories possible for others every day.
Elmer Lukeman. RIP.