Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Member Spotlight - Gerry and Bonnie Keen

By George Harper

Gerry and Bonnie will soon welcome us as hosts for the Galax, VA, rally May 18-22. Bonnie is actually a native of the area as she grew up in Boonville, NC, only 38 miles SSE of Galax. Her family still has a "mountain home" near Galax and she has fond memories of spending time there. Her father's family were tobacco farmers. One of the places Gerry and Bonnie enjoy traveling to is Simcoe ON, Canada because during the depression of the 30's Bonnie's mother’s family moved there along with many other tobacco farmers to find work in Canada's newly developed tobacco farms. They were welcome advisers because they knew how to cure tobacco.

At their mountain home near Galax 

At their Lake Norman home near Charlotte

Gerry is also a native North Carolinian, growing up in Wilson, NC. Gerry and Bonnie met in Winston Salem and lived there for 18 years. Bonnie and her cousin were looking for a place to live and the manager of an apartment complex told them about two apartments that were available. The manager said one of the apartments had two guys living on one side, and three guys on the other. Bonnie quickly replied, "We'll take that one." Sure enough it turned out that Gerry was destined to become her special one.

While living in Winston Salem, Bonnie worked in accounting for L'Eggs Hosiery, but now she does volunteer work. She prepares tax returns for AARP, and works with Meals on Wheels. She also volunteers with her church, but one of her favorite things to do is being with her grand kids. The Keens have two sons. Scott and Nicole have Bonson and Grace and they live in nearby Denver, NC. Scott is a pilot for American Airlines. Son Paul and Audrie have Christopher and Gracie. Both Scott and Paul are pilots like their dad.

Bonnie with grandson Bonson

Gerry grew up around airplanes as his dad had two planes, the last being a Taylorcraft. Gerry didn't take a straight line into the aviation industry though. He began working in the financial industry with GMAC in Rocky Mount NC in the mid sixties. However, working in finance could not compete with the beautiful Martin 404 passenger planes he would frequently see at the airport. "I loved the sound of the engines" Gerry says. He was hooked. That's when he decided he wanted to be a pilot.

The Piston and Propeller Era:

A Martin 404 like the ones that Inspired Gerry to become a Pilot

He took some pilot training in Rocky Mount, but then trained in St. Petersburg/Clearwater, FL  winding up with a multiple engine rating and was certified to teach flying and instrument rating. He then went back to Rocky Mount and took an entry job as a flight and instrument instructor. His career really took off when he was hired by Piedmont Airlines where he initially flew the Fairchild FH-227 and the Nihon YS-11 turboprops of that era. Later in his career he flew Boeing 727's, 737's, and 757's. At the end of his career he was flying the Boeing 767 on the trans-Atlantic route to London, Paris, Frankfort, and Madrid.

Piedmont Airlines merged into US Air in 1989 and  Gerry retired from US Airways is 1999.

Turboprop Era of Gerry's early career with Piedmont:

Fairchild FH-227

Nihon YS-11

The Jet Age:

Captain Keen and 727 at Tri Cities Airport NC, c. 1979

Boeing 727 Cockpit Crew with Gerry in the Left Seat, c. 1988

Last Flight:

A Poignant Moment in London as Gerry Prepares to Make his Last Flight in the 767, c. 1999

Now that they are retired Gerry and Bonnie are enjoying a lot of time RVing, but their RV career began in the early nineties. They had a van and attended motorcycle races. The next step came through a friend of Gerry's whose father lived in Anchorage, AK. He set up an itinerary for them to tour Alaska, and they rented a Class-C. It was a great trip that caused them to want to buy their own Class-C in 1997. Through the years they progressed through Class-A, Class-A diesel, and then finally to Country Coach.

Gerry and Bonnie are looking forward to showing us the mountain area that is so special to them. They want to share the beauty of the area, the music, and the culture, as well as the many activities.