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She’s made a career of helping others – and now volunteers doing the same

The passenger had nearly left MSP Airport when he realized he left his phone, credit cards and driver’s license on the plane he had just arrived on.

“I dialed 5 on the airport service phone and thank goodness Judy Preble answered,” he wrote in a thank you email to the Metropolitan Airport Commission (MAC), which operates MSP.

“She was very polite and genuinely wanted to help me. Judy ran all the way to the gate before that plane took off. She managed to find a way to get my stuff to me without me having to go through security. She saved my trip and then some.”   

It was all in day’s work for Preble, who volunteers with the Airport Foundation MSP’s Travelers Assistance program.

The airport environment isn’t new to her. After she and her husband moved to the Twin Cities in 1979, she took a job with Republic Airlines and worked over the next 29 years in a number of customer service positions, eventually working for Northwest and Delta before retiring in 2010.

Now Preble puts her people skills to work volunteering at MSP Airport.

In an interview for this article, Judy quipped, “A lot of people come up and say, ‘I bet you’ve never heard this before.’ And I think, ‘Oh yes, I probably have.’  There’s little that surprises me anymore.”

Preble, whose answers to questions are peppered with plenty of “oh my gosh” and “oh my goodness” responses in classic Minnesota style, typically volunteers twice a week for double shifts.

“You know, I was used to working 8 hours,” she said. “When I was volunteering for only one [four-hour] shift, I found I wasn’t getting much done at home anyway. I was kind of wasting the rest of the day.”

Now, almost nine years since a friend suggested she volunteer, Judy says she has no plans for “retiring” from this unpaid, but very satisfying gig.