Don Padgett - My Stay at the Lark Ellen Home for Boys - 1960-1962

I was 14 years old when I arrived at Lark Ellen I was there for 2 years. Gary Miller and I were good friends and used to hang around together at the home. I got a call from him the other day telling me about your web site. Right now he is trying to locate more "Homeboys" to find out how their lives turned out. I am very thankful that he found me and told me about your site. It was good to talk to him again after 45 years.

I joined the Air Force in February, 1963, two days after my 17th birthday. I spent six months in technical school becoming an aircraft mechanic. I did an 18 month tour of duty at McGuire AFB in New Jersey, and an 18 month tour of duty at Ramey AFB in Puerto Rico. At Ramey I worked on C-130 weather reconnaissance aircraft in the "Hurricane Hunter" squadron. I was married while on a leave from Puerto Rico in 1965, but divorced shortly after being discharged in 1967. Before being honorably discharged in February 1967, I completed my high school GED, and took several college classes at the InterAmerican University. After getting out of the Air Force I worked at various companies around the Southern California area as an aircraft mechanic. I remarried in 1967, we celebrated our 38th anniversary this past July. I continued my education at Long Beach City College, and graduated in 1973 with an associate degree in business. Having had enough of Southern Cal we moved to Washington state in October of 1973, settling in the Seattle (Kent) area where I had a pre-arranged job as a mechanic at an aircraft propeller company. In 1975 I enrolled at the University of Washington in Seattle, and received my BA degree in 1977.

Along about this time the union at the propeller company went on strike, and I found another job, as a mechanic at a company that modified business jets (the Raisebeck Group). This company went bankrupt in 1979. About half way through my employment at Raisebeck I had the opportunity to become a production planner/manufacturing engineer. When the company folded I found a job as a production planner at a company that manufactured aircraft interiors and composite structures. After two more years working as a planner I was able to get a job in their estimating department. After four years of estimating I realized that because the company was so small I would never have much of a chance for advancement, so in November of 1985 I got a job as an estimator with the Boeing Company, working on the B-2 program. I worked at Boeing for fifteen years, mostly in research and development for military programs. My wife also worked at Boeing for about five years.

In early 1986 my wife and I decided it would be a good idea to buy a sailboat and sail off into the sunset. We sold our house, and everything in it, bought a 38 foot sailboat (a Panda) and moved aboard, I kept working at Boeing to fund the trip and the boat. The boat needed a lot of upgrading (sails, electronics, hardware, etc. to sail off-shore, so we cruised Puget Sound while we outfitted it. Along about 1992 or so my wife ruptured a disk in her back at work, and had to have it removed. She never recovered enough to make the sailing trip (she has had four subsequent surgeries), so after living on the boat for 11 years we sold it and moved into a house in 1997.

We had always spent our money wisely and prepared for our future, and in early 2000 we realized that I could retire at age 55. We started looking for a place that didn't have "Seattle" weather, and decided on McAllen, Texas, it also has a very low cost of living. I retired at the end of February in 2001, the day of the Seattle earthquake, and we moved to McAllen. Bought a nice house, had a pool put in, and we've been enjoying it since. One sad note. We had a child, a boy, in 1970. When he was about five weeks old he became seriously ill with a blood infection, this resulted in his having cerebral palsy, he was in poor health until he passed away at age 12 in 1982.

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