BIO Index

Ben Kirkconnell


After graduation, George Edwards and I left Sarasota to go spearfishing in the Keys. Had a wonderful time, eating fresh lobster, snook and ended up in the Bahamas-somehow drinking beer. (Saw George in Chicago in 1973 but haven't heard from him in 38 years, hope he's well). In August of '61 went to Gainesville and became a Gator. At times in college, I roomed with Tommy Dozier, Robert Kronick, and George Edwards. I still see Tommy and Robert. In 1964, Scott Smith (SHS'62) and I went to Europe for 3 months and hitch-hiked from Scotland to Greece, Sweden to North Africa and all stops in between. Great trip. Graduated (just barely) in 1965 with a Business/Finance degree. Applied to AG Edwards for a brokers job and they really wanted me except I was 1-A (remember the draft?)

The Army found me digging ditches in Sarasota in the summer of 1966 and scared me into joining the Air Force. I was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in October 1966 and got married in November 1966 to a young girl I had met at UF. Still married to the same young girl 44 years later. The Air Force sent me to school in Illinois(worst winter they had experience in 100 years, not good for a boy born and raised in Sarasota) to be a aircraft maintenance officer. I spent 7 years (66-74) on active duty in South Carolina, Vietnam, Thailand, and Texas, fixing fighters, investigating aircraft accidents, and inspecting units around the US. Visited Dr. Bruce Buehler in Okinawa in late 1972 on R&R from Thailand. Offered a Chief of Aircraft Maintenance job with the 113 Tactical Fighter Wing, Andrews AFB outside of Washington, DC, I took it. Packed up the family, now 2 sons, one 3 ½ years and one 5 months, Barbara and I and moved to Ft. Washington, Md outside DC.

I enjoyed the job at Andrews, got to fly in F-105s, F-4s, travel the world, South Korea, England, Iceland and had a very enjoyable life watching the boys grow up. Had 550 airmen in my maintenance outfit, spent all my time on personnel problems. Finally, as you get older, things aren't as much fun as they were. Don't know if the world changes and you don't or whether you just get tired or old or all of the above. Starting looking for a new job.

In 1989, I was offered a special assignment as United States Property and Fiscal Officer for DC, managing all the Federal funds, equipment,etc. that came into the District of Columbia National Guard. I had already been promoted to Colonel and I jumped at the chance. We moved into the District, right in the middle of the ghetto. Had been there 2 weeks, when two of the local drug dealers were gunned down in front of our row house. Scared me but didn't faze Barbara. We survived several more shoot outs and murders but finally decided that it wasn't that bad and we stayed 17 years. You don't know how our government really operates unless you've lived in DC! Very few friends came to visit, they were scared more than we were. Even the boys didn't like to visit from college. I retired from active duty on 1 July 2001. I had been in uniform for 35 years. We lived another 5 years in DC, traveling to Europe 3-4 times a years, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, all over the US.

In 2006, Barbara's mother(84) and my mother(97) were getting older and we decided to move back to Florida. We chose Treasure Island (near St. Pete) to be near Barbara's mother but still close to Sarasota and my mother and 3 sisters. My mother died in 2010 at the age of 100! Men don't do as well!

For all my life I was interested in history (maybe from Miss Scarborough class, which I thoroughly enjoyed). I had a special interest in military history, especially the Civil War. I started collecting Civil War books and my collection grew to over 5,000 books. I then started to buy and sell them to finance my hobby. Now to stay out of trouble and keep me busy, I sell Civil War books on the internet between trips to Europe, Asia, skiing and all around the US.

Over the years, I've kept up with a few SHS grads: Dr. Robert Kronick, Jerry Ludwig( known both since I was 4 or 5 years old), Dr. Alan Abdulla (visit him and his family in Utah every few years), Stephen Stottlemyer, Glenn Goodman, Scott Smith (SHS '62), Guy Lombardi (SHS '59) and Tommy Dozier. I recently got in touch with Frank Finkbeiner and found Jimmy Gerard (SHS '59) and Claudia Tolins near me in Largo, and 'Goose' Russo (SHS '59) in Delray Beach. Tragically, Scott died of cancer in 2007 and Guy died in a motorcycle accident in 2009. Miss them both.

Both sons are married and I have one grandson (1 year old) and one grandaughter in the oven, due in May. My health is still pretty good. I should lose some weight but don't. Love those M&Ms. Should exercise more but don't. I still snow ski 3 weeks a year in Colorado, kayak, go to the gym 3-4 times a week, hike in Europe and the US and ride my bike. I can't seem to grow any hair and have finally given up. I still enjoy the free medical advice from Abdulla, free legal advice from Dozier, free insurance advice from Ludwig, and free life advice from everyone else. Robert Kronick and I have solved many of the world's biggest problems but no one seems to listen.

Hope to see Boed, Jack Matthias, Sandy Smith, Tippie, Kenny Tomas, the Brown twins Glenda and Brenda (I'll miss Gloria), Leslie and Billy, John Anderson, Howdy Doody, Ro, and many others. I'm off to France, Germany and Belgium on 2 April for 2 weeks. God willing and the creek don't rise, I' be back for the reunion. Looking forward to talking trash, having a drink or two, calling Charlene Neubauer 'Cookie' and seeing all you young people from soooo long ago.

Cheers.

Ben Kirkconnell