Saturday, June 01, 2013

Towering presence at Nashua Municipal Airport moves on after 22 years: Boire Field (KASH), Nashua, New Hampshire

NASHUA – As longtime colleagues of newly retired Nashua Municipal Airport manager Royce Rankin Jr., Len Cushing and Russ Beeson wouldn’t have thought of missing Rankin’s sendoff social last week at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

But if they seemed to heap a few extra thank-yous on Rankin, there’s a good reason: Both would most likely be out of work now, along with five other controllers, if Rankin hadn’t stepped up to vehemently oppose recent threats to close the local control tower.

Nearly 100 friends, family members, and current and former co-workers at the retirement party Thursday agreed: Rankin’s leading role, along with Don Davidson, Airport Commission chairman and former mayor, in heading off the sequestration-related tower closure in April capped most fittingly his 22 years at the helm of Nashua’s storied airfield.

Former Pease Development Authority security director Stephen Bourque is picking up where Rankin left off. Bourque, also a former director of Rochester’s Skyhaven Airport, was hired in April and worked alongside Rankin for a month to familiarize himself with the position.

Rankin’s retirement was announced publicly at the Aldermanic Budget Review Committee meeting Wednesday. The thanks and kudos began there, with several committee members and Mayor Donnalee Lozeau taking turns praising the 64-year-old Air Force veteran before getting down to the business of looking over next year’s airport budget.

Rankin first came to Nashua in 1988, when he was hired by Midwest Air Traffic Control Services to open a new control tower at the growing airstrip. The airport opened in 1934 and was dedicated as Boire Field 11 years later in honor of Navy Air Corps Ensign Paul A. Boire, one of Nashua’s first casualties of World War II.

“I was fresh out of the Air Force,” Rankin said of his 1988 military retirement. “I remember looking around and thinking, ‘Wow, look at all these little planes.’ ”

Three years later, Rankin was named airport manager upon the retirement of the late Ken Howe. The time flew by, Rankin said, probably because his job was more like a favorite hobby.

“So many people tell me they hate their job,” Rankin said. “But I’m lucky – I love mine. It’s easy to go somewhere to do something you love every day. I never thought of it as work.”

That kind of workplace demeanor seemed to work both ways for Rankin, who from all accounts was as appreciated in his position as he was appreciative of it.

“He’s always so easygoing. You do your job well and he’s happy,” said John Marcum, longtime airport maintenance man and retired Nashua Fire Rescue fleet superintendent. “Roy’s a great guy to work for.”

Several local aviation legends, including James Tamposi and retired Nashua District Court Judge Kenneth McLaughlin, were among those celebrating Rankin’s career Thursday.

“I’ve always had an excellent relationship with Roy. We worked very closely for a time on airport construction projects,” said McLaughlin, now a co-owner of Nashua Jet Aviation, which manages and rents out airport hangars.

“Never a harsh word was spoken. Roy and I have always had the same goal: to improve services.”

Cushing, meanwhile, recalls the day 22 years ago when he happened to see a Telegraph story announcing the promotion of an old friend to airport manager.

“We’ve known each other since 1971,” Cushing said. “He was one of my first supervisors. When I saw his name in the paper, I was in the flooring business, working across the street from the airport.”

The next day, Cushing said, he walked over to say hi. One thing led to another, and 24 hours later, Cushing was back in the aviation business as a Nashua controller.

He and Beeson, a controller for 11 years, shudder to think what might have been.

“He and Don did a tremendous job of getting a contract signed so we could stay open,” Beeson said.

“That’s right,” Cushing added. “Otherwise, we would have been out of work by now.”

Armand Dufresne, a contractor with whom Rankin did business, remembers prodding Rankin into trying golf.

“He said, ‘Sure, I’ll try it.’ ” After only a few outings, Rankin was taken: “One day he says, ‘I’m 59 years old. Why haven’t I done this before?’ ” Dufresne said to laughs.

Later, Rankin confessed one of his biggest worries about retirement.

“I looked around my office last week and realized I haven’t thrown anything away in 22 years,” he said. “Now I’ve got to spend time going through it all.”

But he’ll also find plenty of time this summer to hang out at his camp at Square Pond in Acton, Maine, to hit the links now and then, and finally to take the extended vacation to the Canadian Maritimes that he and his wife, Cynthia, have talked about for years.

Bourque, meanwhile, said he’s “very much looking forward” to his new role, though he does realize that succeeding Rankin is a tall order.

“For such a little guy, he sure left some pretty big shoes to fill,” Bourque said, sharing a laugh with his predecessor.

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