A warm send off to the Showalter's

Dec. 10, 2014

I’ve been trying to figure out when/where I first met Bob Showalter, his wife Kim, their daughter, Jenny, and their son, Sandy. I can’t do it to save my neck. Seems to me that I’ve always known the Showalter family.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know why I’m thinking of the Showalters. Showalter Flying Service, FBO for 70 years at Orlando Executive, is being sold to Atlantic Aviation, the nation’s largest FBO chain. I found out about this via a special emailed issue of their publication, The Fly Paper, at 7:42 in the morning, Wednesday, December 3, 2014. Each member of the family had written a page or so and each page was a unique blend of nostalgia, sadness, excitement about the future, and a conviction that this was the right decision.

When did I meet the Showalters? Let’s see. It probably was at a Piper dealer meeting in the 1970s. Then, in 1979, they were at the NATA convention in St. Louis. I was emcee of the convention, and so nervous that it’s a wonder I remember anyone there. But I remember the Showalters. They were already important people, but they were friendly as could be, and I appreciated them.

Over the years Bob and Kim hired me as a speaker several times and recommended me to others. Every time they hired me I wrote a column about their meeting. At one meeting Kim compared their FBO to an oasis in the desert serving camel caravans. So help me, they had a live camel at the meeting—he arrived in his own bus—and many Showalter employees wore Arabian attire. You shoulda seen me in a robe and a little headdress, leading that camel. I had hair back then, and it was red. You reckon there was ever such a thing as a red-headed Arab with thick glasses?

Then there was the time that the Showalters invited me to see a Space Shuttle launch live, in the wee hours of the next morning. I was advised that Jenny—then a cute and very young lady—would pick me up at my motel at midnight.

As the column put it, “Jenny—blonde, young, and cute as a bug’s ear—picked me up at my motel in her sporty little red car. It has been awhile since a good-looking young blonde picked me up at a motel at midnight, and I made the most of it. It took me 15 minutes to get into that car, while I held the door open (and interior light on) so the lobby crowd could see Jenny clearly. She, in the meantime, was trying to get me in the car fast, in case anyone she knew was watching.”

I’ve been told that pilots from all over teased Jenny about that column.

I could go on with more stories and columns, but let me finish by saying that the Showalters have been and are my very good friends. I sincerely wish them the very best for the future.