Jan. 08--Relatives of Delfina "Penny" Flores, an exuberant Continental Airlines retiree who died on Saturday at age 80, have been on an unusual mission for the past few days: They're trying to find an airline uniform.
With help from employees of United Airlines, which acquired Continental in 2010, they have tracked down attire they believe would be fitting for Flores' eternal rest.
Her children searched closets for the wardrobe connected to Flores' career, but all they found were several name tags and pins.
The family was seeking size 18 navy blue separates from the late 1990s or early 2000s and believed they had located two possible uniforms late Tuesday.
"Hopefully one of them will work out for her," said Carita Flores, the youngest of three children. "We were thinking we should bury her in her uniform because she loved working for Continental. That was her whole life."
Penny Flores spent most of her two decades in the airline industry with Continental. Carita Flores, 45, worked for the carrier for 18 years -- and still has some of her uniforms -- but they're not large enough for her mother.
The Flores legacy with commercial airlines took off in 1978 when Penny Flores began as a temp with Texas International Airlines, a regional carrier then based at Houston's Hobby Airport. By 1979, she was a full-time airline employee. After a merger with Continental in 1982, Penny Flores continued to work in accounting and eventually landed at Houston's larger airport -- now Bush Intercontinental -- handling payroll for ticket agents and ramp workers.
"Because she was an accounting clerk, she wasn't required to wear a uniform because they worked behind the ticket counter, but they were going back and forth so much that she would," Carita Flores said. "She loved her job. That job took her around the world and opened up so many things for her."
The flight benefits took Penny Flores to Spain and Mexico as well as locations across the United States and Canada.
Her husband of 57 years, Frank Flores Jr., spent 11 years with Continental as a ramp worker and international ticket counter interpreter.
Houston-based United spokeswoman Mary Clark confirmed that a group of employees were helping the Flores family.
"Different job functions have different uniforms and we want to get the right one," she said. "Most of our payroll employees do not wear uniforms."
Clark said she has "never come across" this type of request for the airlines' assistance, but wasn't surprised by it.
"There's a lot of loyalty and pride that people have with their work here," she said.
With her husband, Penny Flores had remained connected with others who worked for the carrier.
"She was such a sweet lady," said Marge Kelly, president of the Houston chapter of the Association of Retired Employees of Continental Airlines. Kelly said Flores "was just always right there to help and ... tried to make everybody feel comfortable and at home at our luncheons and our parties."
Penny Flores died of advanced breast cancer, which had been diagnosed in mid-November. In addition to her husband and daughter, she is survived by a son, Michael Flores, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
An older daughter, Benita Hernandez, died in September.
Services are scheduled at Brookside Funeral Home, 13747 Eastex Freeway. Visitation will be 5 to 8 p.m. Friday. The funeral begins at 2 p.m. Saturday in the family chapel, followed by interment.
Copyright 2014 - Houston Chronicle
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