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81-Year-Old Cheyenne Man Washes, Vacuums Rental Cars as His Daily "Vitamin Pill"
Cheyenne, Wyoming,Tribune-Eagle ^ | 04-06-03 | Orr, Becky

Posted on 04/06/2003 5:38:15 AM PDT by Theodore R.

Rent-A-Car job does a body good

By Becky Orr Published in the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle

CHEYENNE – When Malen Powell’s day begins at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, he has the same enthusiasm for his work that he had when he started 10 years ago.

Powell washes and vacuums rental cars. He picks up people from their homes or from car dealerships who rent vehicles from the company.

Powell also travels to neighboring states to pick up cars.

At 81, he has reached a point where he does not have to work. But having a part-time job is a way to stay healthy, he says.

“To me, it’s like a good vitamin pill. I just love these people,” he says of the staff at the car rental company at 800 W. Lincolnway.

“What I like is that these kids are all young. They treat me like a king. I just love them. I give these kids a bad time,” he says with a laugh.

Eric Lunt, 25, manager of the business, says Powell possesses an unparalleled work ethic.

“We have to tell him to take a break,” Lunt adds. “He sets a good example.”

Powell and his wife, Ilas, live in Cheyenne. He first came here when he was 4 or 5 years old. His family returned in 1941 in hopes the city’s dry climate could help Powell’s ailing father.

In December 1942, Powell enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps, now known as the Air Force. He was just 19.

One day he and a friend were working at an air base in Pueblo, Colo., when they saw B24s landing. His friend suggested they enlist. They did the next day.

“It took us 30 seconds to make up our minds,” he says.

Powell took combat crew training for the new B29 bombers.

“It was the most devastating armament the armed services had then,” he recalls of the state-of-the-art bombers.

Powell was part of the 468th bomber group of the 58th bomber wing. After his bomber wing left the United States, its home base in 1944 was Kharagpur, India. The group’s forward base was a spot in the mountains of western China.

In May 1945, the 58th wing moved to the Islands of Tinian, which include Guam and Saipan in the Pacific. The B29 he was assigned to flew missions over Japanese strongholds in several cities as well as in Sumatra, Manchuria and parts of China.

He flew 34 combat missions as right gunner, operating two 50-caliber guns via remote control.

Some of his combat missions were close calls. On one daylight trip to bomb Japanese docks in Singapore, Japan fighters were waiting for the Americans about 20 minutes from their target.

“We were under fighter attack for 15 to 20 minutes,” he recalls. “I would judge they made somewhere around 12 or 15 passes at us.”

Ground forces continued the assault.

“We got hit from the ground, and we lost our turbo and pressurization,” he says.

The wounded bomber limped toward the U.S. airfield in India, two hours and 36 minutes overdue. The bomber ran out of fuel just as it landed. Two of its four engines had stopped.

Powell says that strangely enough, he wasn’t nervous.

“When you’re going into combat, you’re kind of tense,” he adds. “But the minute you get into combat, you’re more calm than I am now.

“All you’re thinking about is doing your job. You’re not under any pressure at all.”

His quick thinking during a night mission involving 500 B29s flying over Tokyo earned him a Distinguished Flying Cross award.

Near Tokyo, he glanced up and saw a B29 directly overhead with its bomb bay doors open.

“I hollered over the intercom, ‘Move it!’” he says. “I’ll tell you, that pilot put that thing into a steep bank.”

In a matter of seconds, the bombs were dropped.

“We just got out of there in time,” he adds. “If I hadn’t looked up and seen that plane, we’d have been part of the atmosphere of Tokyo yet today.”

Memories of a past war bring to mind the fight in Iraq.

“I wished we didn’t have to do this,” Powell says. “But it’s something we have to do.

“I hate evil people like (Saddam Hussein). Thank God we’re getting rid of him.”

Powell planned to become a commercial airline pilot after WWII and earned his private pilot’s license.

But that dream gave way to others. He and his late wife, Ada, raised two sons and a daughter.

Powell chose a job as a truck driver. His career spanned about 50 years, including the period he drove trucks before the war.

He worked with Ringsby Truck Line and Northwest Trucking, transporting merchandise throughout the West. Sometimes, the rigs he drove pulled “triples,” or three trailers, meaning he pulled loads 100 feet long.

The truck driving job suited him.

“I’d set up there and drive down the highway and mind my own business,” he says. “It was something I wanted to do ever since I got out of high school.”

The job helped him realize the need for a Christian ministry for truckers.

He helps with the Trucker’s Christian Ministry, which conducts weekly services at Travel Centers of America, a truck stop on Interstate 80 east of Cheyenne.

The North Cheyenne Baptist Church, where he is a member, sponsors the ministry.

“Jesus says you go out and minister for him,” he says. “We talk to truck drivers. We’re doing what the Lord tells us to do.”

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TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: cheyenne; feature; malenpowell; profile; rentalcars

1 posted on 04/06/2003 5:38:15 AM PDT by Theodore R.
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To: Pan_Yans Wife
2 posted on 04/06/2003 5:48:25 AM PDT by Pan_Yan (When we rest, liberals gain ground)
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To: Theodore R.
A great guy. These people make this county such a great place to live.
3 posted on 04/06/2003 6:04:21 AM PDT by RAY
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To: Theodore R.
The best way to stay young is to have a job to do.

My grandfather took up gardening, but the great thing about working for the car rental place is you get out and about, meet people, etc.

The shop that rents cars to our Ford dealership for "loaners" has a fellow just like Mr. Powell - 70 or 80-ish, shuttles the cars back and forth and helps look after things generally. I always enjoy chatting with him about his experiences in WWII when he delivers my loaner for me.

4 posted on 04/06/2003 6:06:54 AM PDT by AnAmericanMother (. . . there is nothing new under the sun.)
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To: AnAmericanMother
Before I leave for church. This story reminds me of my friend's father I just met last week. He's 96. He is Director of Emergency Services for Logan Co., WV. He's worried he said, because he will lose his driver's liscense when he's 100. He said, "I'll lose my pilot's liscence when I'm 98." We asked him if he still flys. He said,"Yes, but they make me take a co-pilot now." He's been flying all his life and he was a "barn-stormer". He didn't look a day over 80. We were just captivated by him. He was so cute and funny. Strange how some people stay so involved with life while others give up on it.
5 posted on 04/06/2003 6:22:40 AM PDT by WVNan
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To: WVNan
That's cute. My dad started flying at 13, sneaking down to the local airport and taking lessons from a barnstormer without his mom's knowledge (she tanned his hide when she found out.) He's almost 80 and he quit flying last year because he felt he wasn't as sharp as he used to be. But he keeps quite busy with his boat, his distance swimming, and keeping up with Mom. . . . :-D
6 posted on 04/06/2003 6:31:05 AM PDT by AnAmericanMother (. . . there is nothing new under the sun.)
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To: WVNan; AnAmericanMother; Theodore R.; RAY; Pan_Yan; wyopa
My dad passed away this past December at age 86. He had lived in Wyoming since 1927. One of the last trips I made to see him, he closed down his business. He started a book keeping business for small business owners in about 1970 as a second career. He catered to the mom and pop stores, everything from hardware stores to gas stations. When he was 84 his heart just wasn't strong enough physically to do the work so he retired. What an inspiration for the rest of us. When asked about retirement, he always asked for someone to point out in the Bible where God directs us to retire at a certain age.
7 posted on 04/06/2003 6:34:28 AM PDT by SLB
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Thanks. Your dad's attitude is an inspiration.
8 posted on 04/06/2003 8:40:11 AM PDT by RAY
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To: Theodore R.
A lazy,nursing home retirement is bad for a senior's health
9 posted on 04/06/2003 9:43:23 AM PDT by cyborg
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To: cyborg
Yes ---it'll actually be a favor when they raise the retirement age for Social Security. Working is healthy.
10 posted on 04/06/2003 9:49:37 AM PDT by FITZ
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I retired last year so I could draw my pension, but I'm still working, and probably will continue to work until they tell me to sit down and shut up.
11 posted on 04/06/2003 10:18:13 AM PDT by WVNan
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To: Theodore R.
Bump from Cheyenne---
12 posted on 04/06/2003 10:21:31 AM PDT by CloudyI
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To: WVNan
A pastor's job is never done :-)
13 posted on 04/06/2003 12:27:58 PM PDT by cyborg
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To: Theodore R.
14 posted on 04/06/2003 12:32:54 PM PDT by dennisw
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