Hit First by the Coronavirus Pandemic, Arline Employees Search New Paths

When his retirement began that month, Robert Browning Vaughn II was sitting next to the pool at a Mexican resort in Cabo San Lucas with his wife Kimi Vaughn. The trip had long been planned for Mr. Vaughn’s 60th birthday, but retirement was a late addition. Mr. Vaughn, a former Delta pilot who rides with RB, planned to work another five years, but then the airline offered an early retirement.

He had been on leave in the 1990s, but felt that Delta had enabled him to have a good career and allowed him to create a schedule that suited his family’s needs. So he decided to return the favor and help a colleague with less seniority. He also realized that it was time to take a break after a series of personal tragedies.

“I have to do what I dreamed of,” he said. “Now I don’t have to move to another hotel room unless it’s one of my choices.”

At the beginning of his career, Mr. Vaughn flew internationally but switched to shorter domestic trips so that he could more easily return home to help his first wife with depression and other illnesses and his autistic son. In 2015, Mr Vaughn’s wife, whom he had been married to for 33 years, killed herself.

He took time off to mourn and care for his son. In 2017, he started dating Kimi, who was working at his son’s school. Mr. Vaughn’s father died that summer and his wife’s daughter died last year. His mother died in February and his grandmother died of the coronavirus this summer.

“When you bury so many family members in such a short amount of time, each of them changes the way you view life,” Vaughn said. “We’ve had a lot of heartbreak, but we’re trying to look at the things we’ve been blessed with.”

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