OAK ISLAND, N.C. — Whenever President Reagan flew aboard Air Force One, Howie Franklin was there to serve him meals and make sure he was comfortable.
Franklin, who lives in Brunswick County, has many stories to tell. He may be the only person in the world to serve five consecutive U.S. presidents.
"I worked for President Ford, President Carter, President Reagan, President Clinton," Franklin said. "I think he (Clinton) is guilty, but he was a nice guy."
For 24 years, from 1970 to 1994, Franklin was a steward aboard Air Force One. Ten years ago, he retired as chief steward to take over the Brunswick County airport.
"It was kind of like having a great meal, and you had all you wanted," Franklin said.
He went from Air Force One to an airport with one runway.
"Brunswick County Airport -- we call us the little airport with the big heart," he said.
A big heart inspired Howie Franklin.
"I was at Reagan Library a week ago, and someone asked me at the Reagan Library what was the best time I ever had flying with Ronald Reagan for eight years," he said. "The only answer I could say was eight years with Ronald Reagan.
"His humility, his sense of humor, always on a positive. I mean, that's incredible leadership. He lived as though he was a great person."
Lived and died. And the man at the little airport with the big heart had a heavy heart Friday but carried with him the inspiration of a president.
"I tell my son about him," Franklin said, "and I tell him what he did and what he believed in and how he treated people. He got it. He understood."