By Colleen S. Good
Times West Virginian
Cathy Perry may have only moved to Worthington last year, but she’s glad to call West Virginia home.
“I used to travel a lot,” Perry said. “I used to have a goal that I would visit all of the states by the time I was 50. You know, 50 states by the time you’re 50. Well, I got to about 38, and I was done. West Virginia was the last stop.”
She said that while she got tired of traveling, it taught her a lot about what people have in common.
“People are people. We all have the same basic human needs,” Perry said.
She and her husband Richard moved to Bridgeport in 2011 when Richard got a job as an aircraft mechanic at Bombardier Aerospace at the North Central West Virginia Airport. They decided to move to Worthington when they started looking for a house the next year.
“We’re pretty close to my husband’s family in Pittsburgh,” Perry said. “So this is a good place to lay down roots.”
Cathy and Richard met in Alabama, where they were both aircraft mechanics.
Perry got started as a mechanic in North Pole, Alaska, where she graduated from high school in 1989. She had worked in law offices for around five years before she decided she wanted to do something more physical. Friends had been talking about the Air Force, so she decided to join, too.
“When I did, I really had to work hard to increase my strength so I could qualify to be an aircraft mechanic,” Perry said. “You have to lift something like 100 pounds above your head.”
She started training in 1994, and after training was stationed out of Texas, the state where her family now lives. The Air Force was where she started to really travel.
“I was in Saudi Arabia and Germany, and had some stopovers in England and Ireland,” Perry said.
One year, when she was working out of a town called Sembach, Germany, she ended up spending Christmas on a runway in Turkey.
“The general wanted to take mail out to the troops that were out there in tents on Christmas Day, and they needed somebody to go with them, so I went,” she said. “I thought, ‘Well, I’m away from family anyway, so why don’t I just be a part of this?’”
Perry finished with the Air Force in 1998 after she got her FAA A&P certification, which allowed her to be an aircraft mechanic with private contractors. She started traveling across the United States, and eventually ended up in Alabama, and met her husband.
“We were both working at a place called Mobile Aerospace in aircraft maintenance contracting in Mobile, Ala.,” she said.
They got married in 2008 and have a 4-year-old daughter named Stephanie.
Now that she has a daughter, Perry has retired from being an aircraft mechanic.
“You know, when I chose that path, I did not give motherhood one thought,” Perry said, laughing. “A lot of times you have to work all through the night, with odd days off and 12-hour shifts, and that’s not going to work.
“Now I’m a stay-at-home mom and I have a 4-year-old, and she’s the light of my life,” Perry said.
Perry spends between 16 and 20 hours a week volunteering with her daughter’s school, Carolina Head Start.
“The first couple of days they asked for volunteers, and it seemed like they really did need it, so I just kept going,” Perry said.
Perry volunteers in the lunch room and does activities with the kids.
Last week, she spent all day Sunday making rainbow rice for the kids to play with.
“I made 40 pounds of it,” Perry laughed. “I put these rocks down in the bottom of it, and I told the kids that if they find a rock they like, they can keep it. It’s called a gratitude rock. So every time they take it out of their pocket, they have to say something they’re grateful for. Every single one of them said, ‘I’m grateful for my mommy.’ It was so cute.”
She and her daughter love doing art projects together. This year for Halloween, her daughter was a princess and she made her own princess hat.
“It’s even more special because she got to make it,” Perry said. “We used cardboard and paper and glue. She glued a little jewel to the front of it and drew a lot of her artwork on the side.
“That’s her favorite thing to do — paint, draw, color, all kinds of art. She loves it. That’s her,” Perry said.
One of her family’s favorite activities is spending time outside.
“We love the rail trail,” Perry said. “They take their bikes out and I run. I’m just getting into running, and actually that’s another goal of mine. I want to run a marathon by the time I’m 50.”
As a kid, Perry had a unique dream.
“Whenever I was a kid, I wanted to be a female body builder,” Perry said. “But my mom, she’s kind of old school, so she would never let me participate in sports or anything like that. Now I’m making up for lost time,” she laughed.
“I love being physical and getting out there and doing things,” she said.
She works out at HealthPlus, doing group activities, like boot camp classes.
“That’s my fun place,” Perry said. “I’ve gotten to make a lot of new friends up there. A lot of the ladies up there, they’re my age and have a lot of common interests.”
Perry also was elected to city council in June after filling an empty seat starting in January.
“It’s hard getting to know everybody when you’re new, especially when most people have lived here their whole lives,” Perry said. “I thought that would be a good way for me to saturate myself with what’s going on in the community.”
Moving away from her family in Texas has been hard on Perry, who has six siblings.
“It’s hard being away from all of your family, especially with a little one,” Perry said. “I try to make it down at least once a year to visit my mom and my siblings.
“Since I have my daughter now, I’m trying not to focus on missing my family because I don’t want to take away from her childhood,” Perry said. “It kind of hurts me in my heart a little bit that she doesn’t have her aunts and uncles around, but you know, you just have to go with what you can manage in life.”
Perry hopes to visit her family this Thanksgiving, a big holiday in her family. Everyone in the family gathers together, each bringing a dish to share.
“It’s my mom’s favorite holiday,” Perry said.
Perry, her husband and her daughter have a lot of fun in Marion County, too. They play outside, go to Valley Worlds of Fun and play mini golf at Coal Country Mini Golf.
And while Perry’s aircraft mechanic days are behind her, she hopes to start on a new career path soon.
“Since I’ve been volunteering at Stephanie’s school, I’m thinking about going back and getting my (associate degree) and becoming an assistant teacher,” Perry said.
Email Colleen S. Good at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @CSGoodTWV.