Making Mom Proud - United Hub

Making mom proud

By Matt Adams, May 09, 2018

It was a rainy late March morning, and one of our Ramp Service Employee Karen Perreira and her crew were making final preparations for an inbound aircraft at Chicago-O'Hare's gate F14. In the last moments before arrival, their team lead for the day, Chris Kaczmarek, made sure everyone was clear on his or her positioning, then he looked at Karen.

"You OK working the pit on this one?" he asked with some hesitation, partly because of Karen's 20-plus years of seniority on him, but partly for reasons a little more, well, delicate.

"Sure, I'll swap with you," she answered, concealing a grin.

"Thanks, Mom."

Geoff, Karen and Chris on the ramp

For the past two years, Karen has had the rare pleasure of working with not just one, but two of her three sons. Chris, her oldest, came to the airline first, followed a few months later by her middle son, Geoff Kaczmarek. Karen's youngest, Nick Kaczmarek, is still in school at Southern Illinois University, but she has a gut feeling he might join her and his big brothers in the family business one day, too.

"Any time we all get together, Chris, Geoff and I talk airport, and Nick always gets jealous," Karen joked.

Since the time they were in diapers, Karen's boys have grown up around the roar of jet engines, so she's not altogether surprised that two of them have followed in her footsteps. Chris was fresh back from a U.S. Army deployment to Afghanistan in 2016 when Karen first mentioned to him that United was hiring at O'Hare. He said he was interested, but he had one question.

"He asked me if I'd put in a good word for him," she recalled, laughing at the memory. "I said, 'Of course!'"

More often than not, Chris and Geoff work a different shift than Karen, but like any good mom, she still keeps tabs on them. Her proudest moments are when mutual colleagues come up and tell her how well her sons are doing.

"It's very rewarding," Karen said. "You try to guide your children their whole lives, and then to see them turn out the way you envisioned them being, I can't explain how great that feels."

When they were younger, Karen worked nights so she could be at home to see them off to school in the mornings and welcome them back each afternoon. As they got older, she was a fixture at her boys' Friday night football and Saturday morning baseball games and bonded with them on family trips every summer. But of all the special memories motherhood has given Karen, seeing her children next to her in United uniform rivals any of them.

"It's been a great experience," she said. "Of everything I've done at the airline, working the ramp is my favorite, especially now that I get to do it with my sons. I always taught them to be good, kind and mindful of others, and I get to watch them exhibit that every day. They're hard-working, loving and caring men."

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