Seeds of Life Were Planted at 07FA, Ocean Reef Airport
By Chip Matthews, Member Since 2003
He was 10 years old, it was late December and he was as eager as a young boy about to go pick up his Red Rider BB Gun. His grandfather was taking too much time and he wanted to leave, like yesterday. As he hopped into the passenger side of his grandfather’s old green golf cart, he thought, next time, it would be he who was driving.
As the wind flowed through his hair, Man Man, as they called him, began to tell him a story of when he was trying to make the football team. He explained that his name was not called of those who made the team, but Man Man (Herb Matthews), would not accept “no” for an answer and showed up for practice the next day, the next and the next. Man Man eventually became a starter on the football team. So, Man Man said, if you want something bad enough, persevere until you get what you want.
They pulled into the parking lot of the security office to take the golf cart driving test. He was old enough, but when measured, was an inch too short. Man Man had to live up to the philosophy he had just taught his young grandson of perseverance. Between the two of them, Benton walked out with that golf cart driver’s license.
Though it may seem at first this has nothing to do with Ocean Reef Airport, it has everything to do with it. Benton, equipped with his golf cart license, set out with the newly found freedom to explore on his own. No parents, siblings, grandparents to tell him what to do, Benton was free to do exactly what he wanted. So, he drove straight to the Airport to look at airplanes. For me, I would have gone to MarineMax to see the new boats or Buccaneer, but Benton knew exactly what he wanted to go see: airplanes up close.
Every year since birth, Benton found himself at Ocean Reef for the holidays. So, for Christmas the next year, Benton got his first cell phone. One day he was showing us some pictures he had taken with his phone. We were shocked to see pictures of him sitting in the pilot’s seat of a jet, then a different plane and then another. When asked, he said he would ask the pilots if he could look in their airplane. Who can say “no” to a young boy, eat up about the same passion the pilot had.
The seeds of love for aviation were planted at 07FA and germinated for the next 14 years. He is now a first officer for Endeavor; Delta connection flying CRJ-900 and owns two Cessna 172 planes.
Christmas at Ocean Reef has continued for all of his 26 years, but in 2017, the family went to the Abaco’s just to mix it up a little. The family had a great time living the relaxed Bahamian lifestyle and eating fresh seafood. We stayed in Hopetown, enjoying the no pressure days of swim suits, flip flops, Nippers, Cracker P’s, Mango’s, swimming with the pigs and fishing for dinner.
So, when Dorian devastated the Abaco’s, Benton and his friend, Ross Pounders, requested time from work, donations from family and friends, and supplies to go to the Abaco’s. They loaded up one of his planes and headed south to Fort Lauderdale (FLL) the first week. Six round trips between FLL and different islands in the Bahamas delivering people and emergency supplies.
The second week, Benton drove a U-Haul from Atlanta to Jacksonville and then on to Fort Lauderdale full of donated emergency supplies where they were barged across the Gulf Stream to help the people he had come to love in the Abaco’s.
This story makes me think about the seeds we plant today. We never really know what will grow from them. But for Benton, the seeds of perseverance from his grandfather and the generosity pilots showed a young boy at 07FA, made him want to give back in time of need.