By Barbara A. Schmitz
Bob Herman has been attending the EAA fly-in convention for 51
years, and volunteering for 50 of those years.
“But I didn’t realize I was volunteering those first years until Women
Activities’ Chair Jenny Dyke told me that was what I was doing,” he said,
smiling. “I helped several years before I knew I was volunteering.”
Bob, of Fostoria, Ohio, said he was a handyman who fixed whatever needed fixing when AirVenture first moved to Oshkosh. He fixed flat tires or buses that wouldn’t run. He has also volunteered at SUN ’n FUN in maintenance for 30 years.
At Oshkosh, he’s volunteered driving the Welcome Wagon for the Homebuilts area and worked for Operation Thirst. A retired engineer, Bob has also volunteered as an EAA adviser, answering questions from welding to how to read blueprints.
In recent years, he’s been helping in the information and lost
and found booth. Hats and sunglasses are regular items turned in, as well as
the most popular, cellphones.
“It always amazes me the number of credit cards we end up with,”
he said. They usually get a number of wallets, too.
This year, one man lost his wedding band. “He was afraid to tell
his wife,” Bob said. “But luckily, it was one of the first things brought in,
just as we were setting up the booth. He was in shock.”
Another woman lost the key fob from her rental car at the
Wednesday night air show. She came to the booth, left her contact information,
and called a friend to come pick her and her family up.
“I doubt they were even off the grounds before the key fob was
turned in by one of our volunteers,” he said, adding that the woman was back
Thursday morning to pick it up.
“We don’t get everything back to their right owners, but people
are shocked at how much we do get to them,” he said. And that makes working at
the booth fun.
“You’re making people happy when their items are returned to
them,” Bob said. “Some people will come back year after year. They can’t thank
Bob usually arrives a week in advance of the convention to help
set up, and will stay after a few days to help put things away when he can.
Why does he come back each year?
“I haven’t figured that out yet,” he said. “I don’t move as fast
as I used to. I’m trying to figure out when I should call it quits. Probably
when I drop dead.”
But Bob said he enjoys the people on the grounds and those he
volunteers with. “I like to agitate people, and try to talk them into helping,”
he said. “I give them a hard time just for the fun of it.”