As I set out on my journey to empower others with stories of women who dared to be different or follow their dreams, I am learning that there are many women who have stories to tell that can inspire others.
Here is a woman who never desired to be a mechanic, but due to her determination to allow another qualified female to do what she loved, being a mechanic, it sent Cindy Kennedy down a path that would stay with her for the rest of her life.
It began when Cindy was married to her first husband who loved to work on cars as a side profession while holding down a day job far from the automotive world. One day he decided to quit his job and open a specialty repair shop for Toyota’s. He wanted to offer a repair facility where Toyota drivers could come and feel confident that the work would be performed with care.
Cindy, having a degree in Accounting, handled the office duties to include hiring the employees, answering phones and bookkeeping. So in 1974 the shop opened for business in Houston, Texas.
Their business was flourishing and customers were filling up the schedule. Since the shop load was gaining momentum, it was time to hire another mechanic. An ad was placed in the classified and applicants were arriving. One applicant stood out not only because of the qualifications, but because of her gender. Cindy was taken by this female named Christina who she interviewed for the position. Christina exhibited her talent with repairing cars and her love for doing it. This was not just a job, but a passion. I can relate to that.
When Cindy informed her husband that she was going to hire Christina he took a stand against it. Her husband and the other male mechanics were not convinced that any female was capable for the task. Cindy was not up to hearing why she couldn’t be hired, but why she was qualified for it. She ended up informing her husband that she was half owner of the business and the one that does the hiring, so Christina was hired.
The next day Christina started and right out of the shoot, she was gaining ground with the customers. As time went on, the customers held confidence in Christina and Cindy’s husband was still not convinced. One day Christina was in need of a helping hand, so she requested that Cindy help. Little did Cindy know that this would be the beginning of something she would fall in love with and use it her entire life. Cindy began to start asking car questions of Christina on how things worked and how to make repairs. This became fascinating to Cindy, so much so that Cindy started to lend a hand on a regular basis.
Cindy and Christina developed a friendship over time so one day they teamed up to purchase cars on the side, fix them up and re sell them, bringing in some extra cash. After all women know that extra cash can come in handy for paying the bills and those clothes we love to own. Cindy was beginning to transform from office girl to female mechanic.
This partnership lasted for several years until one day Christina decided it was time to branch out and open her own repair shop, which she did with great success. Cindy divorced her husband but took with her from this marriage some priceless lessons. After the divorce, a friend informed Cindy about a Cadillac dealership that was coming into town needing employees, so being out of work and still having the taste for mechanics, she jump at the challenge when she was hired by the dealership to be the Service and Parts manager.
Of course this did not sit well with all the male employees determined to prove her unqualified for the position, it was the men who learned a valuable lesson here. Never judge a book by its cover. It did not take them long to figure out Cindy was hired because of her knowledge, not because of her beauty.
Cindy conquered many challenges in her life time, like working in construction and absorbing the knowledge to build, install electrical and became very good at tape and texturing.
Love would find Cindy again when she met Hal Kennedy who was never intimidated by the Tomboyish side of her, after all, life together is never a dull moment. Cindy was a country girl and loved riding horses and for a few years you could have found her barrel racing showing off her competitive side.
Cindy and Hal branched out and began their own Nursery which they purchased in Oregon producing trees then selling wholesale to other Nurseries or landscape companies in need of a great product for a reasonable price. To show off their business along with Cindy’s love for cars, in 2001 they purchased a1949 Chevy Pickup. Not to drive in car shows or Hot August Nights, but to show off their business. This truck was not yet presentable, so, they dove in and began the restoration. As my Columnist Windy Wiper would say, take your car from Drab to Fab, which is what they did. Cindy uncovered her tools and started in on the engine and body work. But when it came to painting the truck, well after a few attempts, Cindy realized that just wasn’t her cup of tea, so Hal was able to barter with someone he knew for the paint job. What a beauty it turned out to be. When they would attend shows to promote the company, Cindy couldn’t believe people were more interested in the truck than what it was there to represent. They still own it today but unfortunately they closed their Nursery after only 12 years. The business was thriving and having only a slight bump during the down turn of the economy they were still on track to retire in Oregon. All of that changed when their kids decided to move back and live close to them causing them to reevaluate retirement and the Nursery. Watching their grandchildren growing up now became the focus so selling the Nursery was the only logical choice and enjoying every minute.
Even though mechanics was a part of Cindy’s life for a short time with her first husband, what she learned from it is lasting a life time. During that journey, Cindy was able to empower Christina, by giving her the chance that others were against, someone who believed in her. Here is a story where two women really empowered each other without really giving it a thought. So if you have a dream reach out and grab it, it just might last a life time.