BANGOR – To call Frank Cande meticulous may be an understatement. At 83 years old, he’s not above getting on his hands and knees and with toothbrush or scrub brush in hand, to clean those hard-to-reach places at Bangor International Airport.
Long past the time others are retired and relaxing, Cande is working hard at the airport where he has been employed since 1998, the past two years in the housecleaning department.
His six years at the airport cap a work experience that began early on at the family farm and that has included military service and employment in the public and private sectors.
“I love work,” Cande insisted as he went on his rounds recently at the airport. “You’ve got to work somehow.”
He’ll tackle just about anything and works until the job is done and done right, a philosophy he said he developed while working on the farm in Dalton, Mass.
Cande, who served in the military from 1942 to 1946, honed that philosophy in the U.S. Army Air Corps, where bedsheets had to be so taut a quarter would bounce off them and, more importantly, where learning precision and attention to detail could spell the difference between life and death. “The things I see that need to be done, I will do,” said Cande, who lives in Corinth and works for River City Commercial Cleaning, which is responsible for making sure everything is spotless at the airport.
There are eyes on the lookout all over the airport, and they won’t catch Cande napping. Bangor police Officer Mike Kenny, assigned to the airport, can attest to that.
While monitoring cameras strategically placed at the airport, Kenny said, he has seen Cande busy shoveling off the walkways soon after the last snowflake fell. Cande has done early-morning checks on the administrative offices, and, if he felt the night crew’s work wasn’t complete, he’d finish it himself.
“He can put people to shame who are half his age,” maybe even younger ones, Kenny said with certainty.
“Leave me alone, you’ll find me busy” is Cande’s motto.
Cande seems to have a knack for cleaning up.
Take, for example, the Koala Inn in Schenectady, N.Y., where business had been spiraling down in the mid-1970s. Cande and his wife, Betty, had been working for the then-Koala chain for less than two years when they were asked to head to New York and get things in order. Within 15 months, the pair had increased occupancy rates by 13 percent, he said.
Cande is particular about how things are done.
In the upstairs supply closet at BIA, everything has its place, including the comb used to clean the roller push sweeper. Now if he could just get someone to use the comb to clean the sweeper, he quipped.
Working at the airport, where he is surrounded by people and airplanes, is a good fit for Cande, who has been around airplanes almost as long as he has been around people.
During the summers when Cande was a kid, his father rented out field space to a pilot who used it to train others to become pilots or to give rides to eager passengers.
Cande would go down to the fields, and, because gas wasn’t as pure as it is today, he’d use a strainer to remove any impurities as the pilot fueled the biplane. He would watch the plane in flight and dream about flying.
Years later, he entered the military and trained soldiers in the use of Martin gun turrets, the weapon system on the top of the planes.
Cande also has a strong sense of civic duty, serving for 31 years in the Kiwanis Club, where he was president and lieutenant governor. He greets troops passing through BIA when he can, shaking hands and sometimes hugging soldiers during their brief stay in Bangor before heading out to Iraq.
Cande will admit that his recent fight with prostate cancer has slowed him down and reduced his hours at the airport, but in the same breath, he will say there is still much to do.
Even after serving 25 years as a soil and water conservation engineer technician with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, his military service, managing motels and raising a family, Cande isn’t ready to call it quits.
Asked about his plans, Cande said he intends to keep on working.
“I enjoy work,” he said. “I just can’t help it.”
The Bangor Daily News is profiling people age 70 and older who choose to remain in the work force. We welcome suggestions for people to profile. Contact us at 990-8138 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.