The Liberty Gazette
January 15, 2019Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: The skies mourned, but downtown Dallas high rises lighted them in colors of Luv last week, paying respect to Southwest Airlines founder, Herb Kelleher. Herb passed away on January 3, leaving a legacy and a ton of friends.
Our own local friend, Kathleen Burnham, worked for Herb for many years. She shared her unfiltered thoughts. “Really don’t even know where to start. My heart is broken over the loss of our fearless leader and the BEST boss a person could ever dream of having. I am beyond blessed that I was hired at SWA in 1979 when SWA was still small and everyone knew everyone. Herb would board an airplane and knew everyone’s name and it always made our day to have him on our flight. Herb iced cups, passed out peanuts and visited with all of our passengers making their day as well. I never once saw Herb without getting a huge hug and a big kiss on the cheek! You will be so missed Herb, loved forever and always be my hero! May God rest your precious soul. You may be gone but you will NEVER be forgotten!”
Herb was unique, and you’ll hear the sense of loss from his large contingent of friends. He brought a refreshing twist to “CEO,” and the tributes to this “brilliant maverick” are still flowing in.
Linda: I remember standing in the jetway with Herb and many others as we waited for Captain Alan Crawford and his family to walk off the plane after Alan’s retirement flight. The jetway was jam-packed, and there was Herb in the midst of it all, celebrating with everyone, ready as ever to encourage and cheer others on.
Maybe his secret was that he didn’t seek the spotlight, but that he sought to be the spotlight for others. One thing’s for sure: he lived his life fully, and it was in his nature to be a people-magnet. He didn’t even have to try. And that was reflected in the fun atmosphere on Southwest Airlines flights.
As one employee put it, “Where else could you wear shorts to work, dress up at Halloween, tell jokes and sing on the PA system?” She’s right. The first time I heard a joke from a flight attendant aboard a Southwest Airlines flight, I thought, how refreshing – a sense of humor!
He certainly blazed a new trail and did things like no one else. He modeled the role of a CEO as a human being, one who didn’t act like he underwent transformation at “CEO school,” where they tend to emerge having learned how to alienate themselves from their minions. Kathleen explained it well. “I don’t believe a Texas company has a founder as compassionate, loving and selfless as Herb Kelleher! The love you give, is the love you keep!”
Here’s to Herbert David Kelleher, who said, “It is my practice to try to understand how valuable something is by trying to imagine myself without it.” He was a valuable man.