LAN, or "Life After NUMMI"

Comments (9)

Mark & Gina O'Kennon retired early in Pensacola, Florida.

Mark O'Kennon was an Assistant Manager in Quality Control for the truck and car operations, overseeing as many as 180 people at New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. when the plant closed last year. He was there for 25 years. He was 55 years old. He was also prepared for early retirement, financially and emotionally.

O' Kennon and his wife Gina already planned to move from Fremont to Pensacola, Florida, where she's got family.  They've been visiting for the last 20 years. The NUMMI closure simply accelerated their move east by a few years. They listed their house and sold it. On April 2nd, he left California. Gina, who had worked in human resources in the Bay Area, moved two weeks before.

"She would have supported me trying to find a new career [in Fremont]," O'Kennon says. "But at my age, the realities are, without a college education, I might go back to square one." Now he's just looking for a job, as opposed to a career, possibly something in tourism, something to bring in a little income while he eases on in to retirement.

O'Kennon keeps in touch with NUMMI friends through Facebook. Medicine is a popular choice among the job seekers in his social circle. A number have returned to school to retrain as medical technicians or nurses.  Some left the state to follow manufacturing jobs, including with Toyota. O'Kennon misses them.

"You spent 10-12 hours a day with these people, and then sometimes Saturdays." Over the course of 25 years, colleagues showed him baby pictures, and then eventually, snaps of the same kids going off to college.

The native San Franciscan also pangs for Giants games. "The year I leave, they win the World Series." The former season ticket holder had to watch the whole thing on TV.

But a year after NUMMI closed, Mark O'Kennon is at peace with LAN, or "Life After NUMMI." He prefers the slower pace of life, the lack of traffic, and the extra land that comes with a property in the Pensacola real estate market. He's taking classes at Pensacola State College now, in landscaping, to do something with that extra land.

That's O' Kennon's story.  Fellow NUMMI alumnus Maria Gregg had to find a new job locally ASAP, and she found one in Sunnyvale.  Shortly, I'll share a story about another colleague who left the state to land his next job.

We found former NUMMI workers for this story using the Public Insight Network. What's your story?  We're all eyes. Post it here.

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About Rachael Myrow

From KQED’s Bureau in San Jose, Rachael Myrow covers politics, economics, technology, food and culture in a vast region extending from Burlingame to Edenvale to Fremont. This follows more than seven years waking at 3 am to host the daily version of KQED's California Report, broadcast on NPR affiliates throughout the state during NPR's Morning Edition. She still guest hosts for The California Report and Forum, blogs for Bay Area Bites, and files for NPR and PRI’s The World. Before KQED, she worked for Marketplace and KPCC in Los Angeles. Follow @rachaelmyrow

Comments (9)

  1. Jenna says:

    You kids look very happy!!!! 😉

  2. Salvador Sanchez says:

    Great Story about a great guy. I’ve known Mark for 19 years and he still has a great attitude about NUMMI and life. I remember when I was working at NUMMI and they asked me who could replace me on my team and the first person I thought of was Mark. Like Mark, we moved from California and we miss our family and friends. As Mark say about NUMMI “It’s about the people”.

    Salvador Sanchez

  3. robert pagan says:

    Mark and gina are one of the blessing we get to take away from nummi they have become great friends . He was by boss at the end and it was a very hard thing to go.through but he made it a positive thing .he did fell to mention that he had gone through it before with GM . But Gina and my wife become friend as well as me and Mark. See u soon

  4. We are not gone,we are just in a better place;we are not finished;we have just begun;the best is yet to come.3/2010

  5. Christina Scardino says:

    There is life after NUMMI!!! NUMMI is family. People or myself have had touched others in our own way. We learn to adapt or go through a transition in our lives. We have made friends with and friends we have lost over the years. We will always remember the people that made a difference in our lives at NUMMI. It is a start of a new journey and new beginning of our lives. NUMMI will always be apart of us no matter what we do in our lives.

  6. Team Member says:

    I’m very glad to see that Mark and his wife are doing so well. He deserves it. Mark always showed compassion for the people around him.
    Always treated everyone fair.
    He was management but he wasn’t an ass like most of them. You could tell that when he would talk to you , not down to you like the others.

  7. Vanessa says:

    Great guy. Glad he’s doing good. Worked for him years ago but he always remembered me.
    I was one of the ones who showed him pictured of my baby and then college pictures.

  8. Mike in Stamping says:

    Worked with him in Stamping. He left the shop when he got promoted but he always would come back to visit. We all got screwed by GM & Toyota and are struggling to find jobs.
    Thanks to both of them.

  9. Julio says:

    Nice to see management is doing well. Hourly team members are still hurting.