Connie Harbin spent the entirety of her sterling, 25-year career working as a controller in the RDR Raider Area of Fort Worth Center (ZFW), displaying a wide smile and positive attitude that was infectious to all who interacted with her. Her motto was the famous quote by American philosopher William James: “We don’t laugh because we’re happy, we’re happy because we laugh.”
“Controllers are a fun group of people and I can honestly say that I have laughed out loud at work more days than I have not,” said Harbin, who retired last week from a career that left her feeling grateful to have the opportunity to do something she loved very much.
“Throughout my career, my advice to new controllers has always been to overlook the negative things, such as shift work and working holidays and weekends, and to love this career for all the positives that it offers, because there are so many positives,” she said. “It has been a job that I have loved going to every day, not only because I actually love the work, but because of my amazing co-workers.”
Southwest Regional Vice President (RVP) Andrew LeBovidge (pictured below, right, with Harbin) called Harbin a “cornerstone” of the Southwest Region (NSW) and said her legacy will always be remembered.
“While Connie has always demonstrated the passion and dedication for our Union, she transcends the norms and truly is the quintessential example of what it means to be NATCA family,” he said. “Her compassion, her caring, and her mindfulness for all her brothers and sisters is unparalleled. She has touched the lives of many of us by inspiring us, motivating us, and even at times consoling us.”
Added NSW Alternate RVP and ZFW FacRep Nick Daniels (pictured with Harbin and LeBovidge, and also at bottom with Harbin and his wife, Tracy, and their daughter Skylee): “Connie is the definition of what it means to be NATCA family. She embraced every NATCA member and made sure they knew they were a part of the family. She is one of the most selfless people I have ever met.”
Harbin said NATCA is the definition of family.
“As a child, your family is the single most important influence in your life. Your family protects you and provides for your needs, as well as teaches you and acts as a role model in how to act and how to best experience life, and as a developmental, our NATCA brothers and sisters fill that role,” she said. “Being an effective member of a family means being selfless, putting the happiness of your family before your own. The family thrives on each member giving and ruthlessly protecting each other.
“Family members are close and feel they can depend on one another for loyalty, respect, love, guidance, and support. Their love is strong and never ending, and they will go above and beyond to be there for each other, and that is what NATCA members do every day for each other.”
Harbin gave back to her Union in myriad ways, including over a decade as a member of the Benefits Committee, and has also displayed leadership in charitable efforts as a platinum sponsor of the NATCA Charitable Foundation, which began the same year she began her career and joined NATCA – 1994.
Harbin considers the Benefits Committee an important part of taking care of the NATCA family, by “researching new benefits to make our lives better,” she said.
Benefits Committee Chairman John Bratcher praised what he called an “amazing NATCA activist” who has spent countless hours of her own time working on behalf of the Union.
“She has been instrumental in enhancing the value of membership in our Union,” Bratcher said. “However, you simply cannot just measure her activism to find the impact Connie has on people; it is the way she truly cares about her brothers and sisters that makes her such an inspiring person and friend. Whether it is calling to check in on one of us when we have had something happen in our lives or preparing bags of candy for me to take home to my kids, she has always put others ahead of herself.
“She is my sister, a fellow NATCA member, but most importantly she is my friend. I hope she enjoys every moment of her retirement as she has earned it 10 times over. Her absence will unquestionably be felt on the committee and within our NATCA family.”
Harbin said being a part of the NATCA family means being a part of a team, something bigger and better than the individual themselves.
“It’s a great team that I have been blessed to be a part of,” she said, “and this family of ours has made me feel very loved and very supported through the years and has made my life as an air traffic controller far better than I ever thought it could be, and for that I am forever grateful.”