HERITAGE TO HORIZONS: 64 years and still counting

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Bryan Bouchard
  • 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
It was 1943 and Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president, the Army Air Corps was flying high over the skies of Europe and the Pacific, and an 18-year-old Dorothy Rowe was starting her first job working for the War Department, as an administrative specialist at the Columbus Quartermaster's Depot in Ohio.

Sixty-four years, an independent Air Force, four major conflicts and 12 presidents later, Dorothy still works for the DOD. She's served here at Luke since 1953 seeing the comings and goings of 39 wing commanders, seven airframes and 11 uniform changes and yet she's still going strong at age 82.

"If I walk in that door and say to myself, 'Oh I don't know if I want to do this anymore,' then that's it," said Dorothy with a sort of sass that comes with more than 60 years of working for Uncle Sam. "But, I haven't had that feeling yet."

She's the 56th Comptroller Squadron's Analysis Flight chief and ensures the good
stewardship of all taxpayer money that flows through the base. She started her journey through the civilian ranks of the DOD after graduating high school in Columbus, Ohio.

"During wartime, the government was coming into high schools and giving tests for employees -- looking for people to come to work," Dorothy said. "So I took the test
and passed it and I got this notice in the mail that I was CAF -- clerical, administrative, fiscal II. They had a job at Wright-Patterson, but it wasn't the Air Force yet, so I don't
know what (the base) was called. Of course I couldn't take the job because I was still in school. When she finally graduated, Dorothy was contacted again about a job at Wright-Patterson but was convinced by her parents to get a job more local to her hometown.

She went to work at the Columbus Quartermaster's Depot. In 1947, she said she remembers the "honchos" from the newly designated Air Force coming to the Quartermaster Depot to acquire and learn how to keep their supply records. The quartermaster depot did all the accounting, posting and auditing of the Air Force supply records.

"The thought never crossed my mind that I would someday be working for the Air Force, but here I am 60 years later," she said. "I guess I believe in longevity."

After working her way up to the position of auditor in Columbus, she followed friends to Phoenix in 1953, getting a job as a stenographer in the finance office at Luke.

"A friend of mine moved out here -- she and her husband," Dorothy said. "So another
friend and I came out here and I thought well, this is the place to be. Palm trees and all that stuff; I was single and thought, 'oh yeah.'"

Since then, Dorothy has served in nearly every capacity at the finance office at Luke; from the cashier's cage to officers' pay, she's seen and done it all.

While the only constant in the Air Force seems to be change, Dorothy has been at Luke during some significant changes.

"When I first started working for the government women didn't get the same opportunities that men got," she said.

Dorothy told a story of competing with a man for a job promotion and felt the pinch of inequality when she was not selected for the position. "Women back in those days
were not like they are today. We're not on an even keel yet, but we will be. But I think women have come a long way nationally and hopefully they'll go a little further."

Beyond the women's and civil rights movements, the transformation of the military world and military finance has kept her motivated to still come to work after all these years.

"There have been so many changes; here at Luke we went through different aircraft, from one wing to two, to an air division and now we're one wing again," she said. "All these changes and all these aircraft -- that changes everything.

"My favorite part is the challenge that's been put forth and the changes that have taken place within the comptroller organization," Dorothy said. "You know the change is coming and you say to yourself, 'Geez, I hope I can make it through this one.' It's the
challenge that has kept me going."

After 64 years of working for the DOD, it's admittedly amazing that Dorothy is not only still working, but still spry and sharp. Her secret to her success has been staying active.

"I tell you what, I've been very active," she said proudly. "You have to stay active and one of my deals is I love to bowl and have bowled in leagues for many years. I got so good at bowling that I got myself into the International Bowling Hall of Fame and Museum."

In fact, there's a picture of Dorothy hanging in the International Bowling Hall of Fame and Museum in St. Louis. Her consistent physical activity combined with testing her wits with activities like crossword puzzles are what she says keeps her going strong.

"As long as I have the capacity -- the mind and the health, I'll do it," she said of her desire to work here at Luke.

While Dorothy retiring seems improbable to anyone who knows her, Dorothy said she's probably going to hang up her DOD identification card in a couple more years. Until then, she will keep an eye and a handle on the budget for Luke.

"If you decide to sit down and never get up, you've had it," she said.