LATHROP – Bob Klingman has seen his work go to the moon, take pictures of the furthest reaches of space and journey out beyond Pluto.
And after more than four decades in the aerospace industry, the longtime Lathrop resident will soon be calling it quits – cashing in his chips in October for a life of relative luxury.
But that doesn’t mean he won’t get to appreciate one last Labor Day before walking away from a career that he started back in 1964.
“I’ve been at this for a long time. I think that I’m about ready to move on,” Klingman said. “There are things that I’m going to miss. The people that I’ve worked with and some of the things that I’ve had the chance to do. But I’ve got a garage full of projects to start working on.
“I’m looking forward to it.”
It was an older brother that initially landed Klingman a job at Parson’s Rotorblade on South Airport Way in Stockton where he cut his teeth assembling wooden blades for Bell Helicopters. He never thought that his first job would one day lead to a career involving cutting-edge projects for the likes of NASA and various technical aerospace companies.
One of the projects he had been assigned to had traveled with an Apollo rocket crew to the moon. And while the materials and the projects themselves changed over his nearly four decades at the facility – not to mention the ownership shuffles – his fascination with space travel, aeronautics and the wonder of what man can do never left him.
Even with his time in the field coming to a close, Klingman still only has to reach as far as the binders of photographs, newspaper clippings and product brochures that map out the majority of his career – from the machining of what would eventually become cannons used to measure the absorption of impacts on the lunar surface to the emergency pod design for the Orion-series rocket.
And come Monday he’ll be reflecting on all of the time that he’s poured into a career that he’s not ashamed to say he’s proud of.
“I’ve always taken pride in my work – I think that’s the one thing that you have to do because if you can’t do that then why are you even there doing it in the first place?” he asked. “Before this year Labor Day just meant a day off, but now it’ll be a chance to reflect and look back on the good projects and the good bosses that I’ve had, and the not so good ones.
“I am where I am and I know what I know and that’s because I was never afraid to take on new jobs and learn different things. I’ve got a lot to look back on and be proud of.”
Klingman says he’ll continue to stay involved with the volunteer work that he does with his wife, Vada, and will likely focus on some household projects like fixing up an old dune buggy and focusing again on the furniture making that at one time brought him so much pleasure.
He’s also quick to offer up advice to those who might follow in his footsteps – those wishing to pursue a career in a technical or engineering field that could expose them to the amazing things he has been able to be a part of.
“Make sure that you learn your math,” he said. “Everything today is based off of math, and that’s probably the single most important thing that you can do to get ahead. That and work hard.”