Got a question about ballistic missile systems? Kettering blood donor Kathy Lindahl spent most of her career as a researcher with the National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright Patterson Air Force Base knowing how to track down the answer.  She overcame lifelong eyesight problems by literally putting her nose to the computer screen.  But somehow one number got away.  She was surprised to learn Tuesday, May 6 that she was making her milestone 100th lifetime blood donation with Community Blood Center (CBC).

“When I checked in they told me!” she said. “I was very surprised. I just didn’t think about it one way or the other.” She settled in for her platelet donation in the capable care of De’Juan Howard, one of her favorite phlebotomists (“I have touchy veins,” she said. De’Juan knows how to find them”) and thought back on the journey to her milestone.

“I used to donate at the base back in the ‘70’s,” she said. “I didn’t start donating platelets unit about five years ago.” Her routine is to donate platelets about once a month at the downtown Dayton CBC, or whenever she gets a recruitment call.

“I’m beautifully retired!” she said about her schedule. “Ecstatically retired! Busy as all get-out , but retired!”  Her new devotion is to the Dayton Philharmonic where she is a volunteer with the education program.  She visits schools with orchestra members and makes presentations on “concert etiquette” so young people can better appreciate their first concert.

“My husband and I went to a concert about four years ago and I really liked it,” she said. “I liked it so much he said, ‘You should get involved!’ and I did.”   Kathy and her husband Bill met while working together at Wright Patt and will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary in October.  He often takes her to CBC because her vision doesn’t allow her to drive.  On a day like Tuesday, when he had a conflicting appointment, she takes the bus.

“I’m an albino and my eyes are very sensitive,” she said. Kathy wears glasses with a magnifying lens insert. Even indoors at CBC she’ll keep her dark sunglasses over her glasses to shield her eyes from the overhead lights. “I got my first glasses at 18 months,” she said. “When you’re little, all the type in the books you read is really big.  It wasn’t until about sixth grade that I started having trouble with math.  I could never see the blackboard.  But it was alright.”

It took extra effort to read and do math problems, but she didn’t allow it to be a problem. Instead she embarked on 36-year career as a researcher.  She went to work for the Foreign Technology Division at Wright Patt, which had pioneered “Machine Translation” – or computer translation – to keep an eye on the Soviets during the Cold War.  MT gave rise to the Systran software for interpreting Russian data.  She saw FTD become the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC).

“It was a fascinating place,” she said. “I worked in ballistic missiles. I was an information researcher for mathematicians and engineers, to do any research they wanted.”

Though she is “ecstatically retired,” she is grateful for a career that opened new worlds and never set limitations. “The Air Force was very good to me,” she said.  “They had an arm built so that I could move the computer screen close to my face – my nose would be touching the screen.  I also had telescope glasses for when I was away from my computer or at training.

“It was a wonderful career, I just loved it,” she said. “I learned so much, every day. I wouldn’t know this much about the internet,” she said holding her finger and thumb and inch apart, “without having done it.”

Sunglasses and ear buds back in place, she finished her platelet donation. Music and books-on-tape (mysteries more than spy novels!) are constant companions for her while donating, running around the track at Kettering Rec, or on the occasional bus ride when it’s time to come downtown again to help save lives.

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