One might say that Earl ”Chip” Chappell has had a long journey in aviation. Chip, a PIT-based Captain, has been with the Company for over 15 years. Before coming to Republic, he worked at U.S. Air for 18 years as a mechanic. When U.S. Air offered an early retirement deal, he decided to follow his dreams and become a pilot and started his pilot career with Chautauqua.
“I thought this is a pretty good place to be. I’m based at home, I have a wife and kids at home, life is good,” Chip reflects.
Life was good with his wife, Michelle and their two children Natelie and Jayson until 2009 when Michelle was diagnosed with colon cancer. ”The doctor said ‘This is as bad as it gets’ and suggested I get her affairs in order,” Chip recalls receiving the devastating news. ”Here I am, two young kids, new at Republic, but we worked through it; lots of chemo and radiation, it was a long road.”
When Chip recalls this time in his family’s journey, he remembers those who stepped up to show support. “I wasn’t shy to share what I was going through at work and there were a lot of people who weren’t afraid to step up. That support I got from the people I flew with was a big thing for me.”
Thankfully, the long road led Michelle and the Chappell family to a miracle as she became a cancer survivor. “The end of my story turned out very well. My wife is very healthy. At the 5-year mark, the doctor came in with a bottle of champagne and said she’s a miracle,” Chip shared.
“I got to see firsthand what cancer’s all about. When you’re younger, you hear about people getting it, but this one really affected me to the point I thought, well, maybe I need to be an advocate,” shares Chip. ”If you ask the crews I fly with, especially younger crew members, I ask them if they’ve been screened. I know it’s affected a lot of them.”
Chip’s advocacy goes well beyond the cockpit, however, as he’s serving as one of 34 Champions for the 2020 Real Men Wear Pink campaign of West Virginia. He was a Champion in 2019 as well, exceeding his fundraising goal of $2,500.
“The Real Men Wear Pink campaign is about breast cancer, but cancer is cancer and this is one of many avenues to support,” Chip shares. In fact, during last year’s fundraising, Chip called on his son, Jayson, who just so happens to be a Republic Ambassador, to help with the efforts.
“I asked Jayson, ‘Can you find out who I need to email as far as getting Republic involved with the cause?’ And 10 minutes later, Bryan Bedford emails him back and said he would get the information to the appropriate people. I just couldn’t believe it,” Chip shares with a laugh. ”I would never have sent him an email for something like that. I know Bryan’s pretty busy. It just reinforced the fact that I made the right decision staying with Republic–it’s more of a family.” A family, indeed.
When reflecting on what impact the Chappell’s cancer journey has had on their own family, Chip’s wife, Michelle shares, ”It’s scary for family. It takes courage when getting a life-threatening diagnosis: ’Your wife has cancer, and you need to get her affairs in order.’ Chip had to deliver that message to me when I woke up from surgery.”
She added, “My adoration and admiration for him went to a new level in 2009. He did everything, coordinated our elementary school children for each and every event, cleaned, cooked, gave our family and friends daily updates and got up for work the next day, with many schedule changes to work around my treatments. It takes physical strength to endure the 12 months chemotherapy regime for colon cancer. So when life gave “us” colon cancer, we took the challenge, became inspired, motivated and humbled. Our lives have new meaning.”
The same motivation to be a champion of advocacy that Michelle shares with her husband of 26 years is what drove her to become so involved in fundraising. So much in fact, that she is now Senior Manager of Cancer Control Strategic Partnerships with American Cancer Society.
We feel lucky to be a part of the Chappell’s journey and to have them as part of the Republic family. If you would like to support Chip in his 2020 Real Men Wear Pink Campaign efforts, click here.