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TPA's longest-tenured employee hangs up the wings after 57 years

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Posted at 8:18 AM, May 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-31 15:49:54-04

TAMPA, Fla.  — Tuesday marked the end of an era for Tampa International Airport. After 57 years, their longest-tenured employee has decided to hang up his wings.

When you land in Tampa on a Cayman Airways flight often the first person to greet you at the door is Joe DeCesare.

Walking through the airport, everyone knows DeCesare.

“I’ve enjoyed every moment of it, that’s all I can say,” said DeCesare.

This 86-year-old is used to giving out boarding passes, but this week he was giving out hugs.

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DeCesare’s aviation career began in New York back in 1957 as a baggage handler for Delta Airlines. One year later he was drafted by the U.S. Army and deployed to Germany.

“When I was in the service there I broke down on the mountainside there, it was dead winter, almost 30 below zero,” said Decesare, who to this day still can’t feel the tips of his fingers.

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He said if he ever made it out alive he would move south and in 1965 he transferred to Tampa International Airport where he’s been happily working ever since.

“We used to roll out a red carpet, we gave out corsages to all the women, we gave out Cuban cigars to all the men, they had to take off their shoes and put on slipper socks before they walked up the steps of the aircraft,” said DeCesare.

For the past 37 years, Decesare has been with Cayman Airways. At this point he probably knows half the island, watching generations of passengers travel back and forth.

“A lot of hugs, a lot of kisses, a lot of shaking hands, and it’s almost like that on every flight that comes in here,” said DeCesare. “They’ll call me up, take me out to dinner, I’ve got three or four calls already that said we’ll be up there you better be available.”

DeCesare was certainly nostalgic cleaning out his district manager office, it’s been quite the journey.

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“I got a love, that’s all, what am I going to do chase a little white ball through the grass? That’s not me. I’d rather chase airplanes,” said DeCesare.

The entire airport is wishing DeCesare a pleasant flight into retirement.

“He knows he has to come back to see us otherwise we are going to look for him,” said one co-worker.