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Dedicated Fuel Station Volunteers Keep AirVenture Running
By Barbara A. Schmitz
July 30, 2021 – Tradition. It’s what brings Orrin Howard and Lorraine Schram back every year to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh to volunteer and work at the fuel station. The two combined have volunteered for the fly-in convention for 101 years and were awarded for their efforts with service awards on Thursday.
“These two have been very dedicated volunteers, and between them have over 100 years of dedicated service,” said Volunteer Chair Judy Knight. “They have been such a joy to work with.”
Each morning, Orrin, 86, and Lorraine, 83, man the fuel station, located in Camp Scholler, after which Lorraine goes to volunteer in Vintage, thankful for its air conditioning. But Orrin, EAA 170123, usually stays at the fuel station for the afternoon shift, too.
Orrin’s father volunteered at the AirVenture fuel station many years ago, and when he was not able to help anymore, Orrin and his wife took over. Even after his wife died, Orrin kept coming back and volunteering. In fact, he has volunteered for 52 years, and close to 30 of those years were at the fuel station.
Orrin’s nephew, Bobby Howard, of Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, plans to keep volunteering at the fuel station a family affair. He said that when his uncle can no longer do the work, he plans to take over. He’s been at every fly-in convention, too, since the Rockford days.
Lorraine said she came to AirVenture with her husband and first volunteered in flowers. Even her husband’s death 25 years ago didn’t stop her from coming back and volunteering. This is her 49th year of volunteering.
Orrin said he has been attending the fly-in convention since he started going with his parents when the convention was held in Rockford, Illinois. He’s volunteered at “the shop, the museum, all over.”
After both of their spouses died, Lorraine and Orrin became a couple and have continued their volunteering traditions. They live in Lone Rock, Wisconsin, and started volunteering this year the week before the convention.
The people are what always bring them back each year to Oshkosh. “This is such a good group,” Lorraine said. “Plus, in fuel, we get to meet a lot of people from different areas.”
Orrin agreed. “The nice thing about this job is that we meet everybody since they need to have fuel.”
That’s for certain. On an average day before the convention, they pumped 800 gallons a day. But during the convention they pump twice that daily, servicing about 1,600 Gators, golf carts, and scooters.
But one of Orrin’s favorite “customers” was EAA Founder Paul Poberezny.
“He would come and sit in the chair with me to talk, or ask for gas for his electric golf cart,” Orrin said laughing. “He’d get such a kick out of that.”
The two said they plan to be back and volunteer next year, unless their health doesn’t permit it. Orrin said he has lung problems and can’t walk far. Previously, Lorraine broke her hip and then fell in her camper this week, which is giving her some pain.
They said they particularly enjoyed being back this year and seeing people, something they did little of during the pandemic. Many people know their names and they’ve become friends after so many years. And that’s no surprise to the couple.
Lorraine said, “People here are so friendly, and we all share the same passion.”