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‘Growth in my compassion--hopefully my humility--is what I want to strive for. What better teacher than her?’

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Fawn Peck flew out of Mines Field--the predecessor of Los Angeles International Airport--for the first time in 1925. “I flew an old two-seat Jenny,” Peck said, recalling that the landing strip was dirt, treated with oil. It ran past Imperial Highway, then a dirt road.

In the ensuing years, Peck, who lives in Westchester, never strayed very far from the airport.

He worked as a mechanic for various aircraft companies in the neighborhood, including Douglas in El Segundo. But eight months shy of his 20th anniversary with Douglas, he was laid off along with thousands of others during an aerospace slump in the early 1960s. A friend told him that the airport--which had recently moved to its new complex west of Sepulveda Boulevard--was looking for workers. When he applied in 1962, he was hired by the public relations department; they didn’t even let him finish taking the tests.

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It was Peck’s love and knowledge of, and experience with, aviation--he went to America’s first aviation meet in 1910 near Compton and shook hands with Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart--that got him the job telling visitors all about LAX as a part-time airport guide.

But it’s his own staying power that has made him--at age 88--the oldest employee of the city of Los Angeles.

“He gets as many thank-you letters as anyone at the airport,” said Pat Schoneberger of the public relations office. “He takes a real interest in all visitors and loves to talk about the old days of aviation in Los Angeles, so they get so much from him.”

Last week, 25 or so people thanked him by giving him an 88th birthday party. “They sang ‘Happy Birthday’ and presented me with a nice cake,” said Peck, adding that he was prepared for this party. “When I was 83,” he said, “they gave me a surprise party.”

Peck, who works 20 hours a week at the airport’s theme building, directs visitors to the observation deck and answers their questions about LAX--most frequently, how big it is, how old it is, how many passengers it handles and how much it cost to build.

“I love being around the airplanes and I like people,” Peck said. “If you don’t like people, you don’t work here, because we meet people from all walks of life from all over the world.”

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Peck, a widower who drives himself to work, says he plans to stay at the airport two more years--”I like to have something to do”--so he can close out his working days at an even 90.

“I’m in good health,” Peck said. “My doctor said, ‘I hope I’m in as good condition when I get to be your age.’ I thought that was pretty good.”

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