12/19/2013 10:27:00 AM Life after Graduation: Jerry Serres
by Connie Bickman
Note: This column features "hometown folks," specifically Cannon Falls and Randolph High School graduates - of any year - and their unique or interesting careers. If you know of anyone you feel would make an interesting feature, email email@example.com - their email address must be included.
Jerry Serres, RHS class of 1985, says his fondest memory of high school was his senior year baseball season. Randolph High School went undefeated that year. He also recalled many summers riding bike to Lake Byllesby after football practice, before getting his drivers license.
Growing up in Randolph on a small farm, Jerry watched his parents work hard with great pride and honesty, always doing everything to the best of their ability.
"They took great pride in what they earned," Jerry said, using them as role models for his own life. His dad, Gerald, died when Jerry was 16 and his mother, Francis, died three years ago, but they left behind a legacy of good work ethics their son won't forget.
Jerry comes from a big family: Randy Serres of Randolph; David Serres of Prescott, WI; Ronnie Serres (deceased); LuAnn Geischen of Randolph; Judy Graves of Cottage Grove; and Mary Beth Serres (deceased).
After graduation Jerry joined the United States Air Force and worked as a F16 aircraft mechanic. He attained an Airframe and Powerplant mechanic license and an Inspector Authorization license in Aviation.
Receiving his aircraft training in the Air Force, Jerry got a job at Wipaire, Inc., in South St. Paul, and also worked at Stanton Airfield nights and weekends. Eventually, he quit Wipaire and ran the shop at Stanton. In 1999, the City of Faribault approached him to have a Flight Based Operations at their airport. They wanted someone to open a full-service shop on the airfield that could repair aircraft, provide aviation fuel, and give lessons.
After careful consideration, Jerry decided to take a leap and open his own business, Quality Aviation, Inc. In addition to his own shop, the city contracted him to maintain the grounds of the airport and act as the airport manager. Jerry currently maintains a full shop, specializing in general aviation and helicopter repair. He traveled to California and New York for high-level training for specialized helicopter repairs.
Today, as owner/president of Quality Aviation, Inc, located in Faribault Municipal Airport, Jerry says he is proud to go to work everyday knowing this is something he started from the ground up. Opening in 2000, he admits that many long hours went into creating a good reputation and providing the highest quality of work and customer service, but the effort was well worth the outcome.
"I like this business because I do many different things every day. I can make my own hours - although that most always means long work weeks and working weekends. I take pride in doing the best job I can, being honest with my customers, and also take great pride in a job well done.
"General Aviation is a difficult line of work, especially a small shop like mine. In a small shop mechanics need to know the entire aircraft inside and out, which is different from major airlines where mechanics specialize. The pay and benefits are lower than major airlines, as well."
Jerry married Jill (Kreutzian) on January 3, 1987. Jill graduated from Cannon Falls High School in 1986, and St. Olaf College in 1992. She has been teaching music at Inver Grove Heights Middle School for 19 years, and also helps in the office at Quality Aviation. Jerry and Jill have two children. Sean, 21, graduated from Cannon Falls High School in 2011 and is currently a junior at St. Mary's University in Winona, majoring in Developmental Psychology. Their daughter, Allie, 18, graduated from Cannon Falls High School in 2013 and is currently a freshman at St. Mary's University in Winona, majoring in Psychology and playing tennis. Both kids help out in their dad's business doing odd jobs during the summer.
Last month Jerry achieved a lifelong dream of his - participating in an Ironman race.
"I've always enjoyed being active. In high school I played football, baseball and basketball. I would swim in the summer, waterski whenever possible, ride bike and run as a kid, and continued all of these things as an adult. I've always felt I had natural endurance ability.
"When I was ten or eleven I remember seeing coverage of the Ironman race in Hawaii on the Wide World of Sports. I was amazed at the ability of the athletes and thought these guys were real athletes - going 140.6 miles in one day! I've thought about Ironman off and on ever since."
After his mother died, Jerry said he began to think about life and what he wanted to do. "She would always say, 'No Regrets' and 'Life is too short.' The Ironman came back into my head. I didn't want to look back on my life and regret that I never tried..."
Jerry's journey began. He bought bike shoes, a helmet and a triathlon bike, which are made for long endurance rides. "I read everything I could on the sport of triathlons. Jill and I became members of LifeTime Fitness in Lakeville so I could work on my swimming in the lap pool. I joined a Masters swim class that met three mornings a week at 5:30 a.m."
In addition to swimming in the morning, Jerry ran before or after work and rode his bike on the weekends. He trained 10-12 hours a week with long workouts on the weekends, where he combined the tri sports - swim, bike and run.
In June, 2012, Jerry entered his first half Ironman distance triathlon in Rockford, MN. "It was a very hot day, about 95 degrees. The race went well, but the heat was difficult to work through. I finished and was hooked! This race gave me the desire to try to complete the full Ironman distance of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 run (full marathon). That summer I did a couple smaller races and was happy with my finishes. With each race I learned more about how to manage race day nutrition, when to hold back, and when to surge ahead, how to maneuver the large group swim, and maintain a steady speed on the bike."
In November 2012, he registered for Ironman Florida. "I remember my son, Sean, right after I had officially registered. He looked at me and said, 'Well, you better get training.' And I did."
Jerry found a podcast by a triathlon coach and listened to his training and race advice, and continued to read and learn more about the Ironman race. He trained lightly over the winter months, working mostly on his swim stroke (his weakest part of the race), biking on the spin bikes and running on a treadmill. When the weather warmed up, he began biking and running outside. As each month got closer to the November 2013 race, Jerry added more training hours and miles.
"The last eight weeks were some of the hardest training weeks I had, long days on the bike, swimming and running. On Saturdays I would ride my bike to work in Faribault, then ride about 3-4 hours after work in the Dundas area, then back home, many times finishing up with a short run. We live on Lake Byllesby, so I logged many hours swimming up and down the shoreline by our home."
Finally race day came. Jerry and Jill left for Panama City Beach, Florida, three days prior to race day. Their kids flew down the following day. Jerry's bike was shipped from Minnesota by a Tri-Bike Shipping Company to the race event. Their condo was on the beach at the hotel where the race was staged, so after checking in with the Ironman race officials, the family took some time to look around the Ironman expo and enjoy the warm weather. Jerry went for short swim in the ocean to test out the waves and burn off nervous energy. The following day he took his bike out for a short ride to make sure everything was working properly.
"The night before the race I didn't sleep much. I felt ready and excited. I was confident in my training. Race day was beautiful with light waves on the ocean. The day I had thought of for so many years was finally here. I decided beforehand to take time to enjoy my race and the atmosphere surrounding it, even if that meant I would go a little slower. The Ironman has a mass swim start which means everyone goes in the water together. 2,800 or so athletes on the beach waiting for the start gun to go off was a moment I'll never forget.
"The gun went off and I got a good line on the swim. I felt great. I beat my personal best time by 10 minutes! Coming out of the water I was able to catch high fives from Jill and the kids, and then I was off on my bike. The ride was awesome - nice weather and no flat tires. Aside from one stretch of rough road, it was an enjoyable ride."
Just after he started the run Jerry was able to see his family again. They were in matching T-shirts, cheering him on. "There were many fans and local people lining the streets. Some were tailgating and everyone was cheering. It was a wonderful feeling to be part of the race. At the half-way turn of the run, which is a full marathon, I was able to see my family again. That was just what I needed to give me that extra push to complete my bucket-list goal of becoming an Ironman finisher."
Jerry admitted that coming down "the chute" to the finish line was an amazing feeling. He had worked so hard for a year to complete this race.
"It couldn't have been better. The day was wonderful. I felt good, had no breakdowns and finished within my goal time of 12-13 hours. I finished a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run to become an Ironman. However, a highlight of the weekend was crossing the finish line and being hugged by my son, daughter and wife - that was the unexpected gem of race day. I was overwhelmed by their love and support throughout and was thrilled to share my journey with them."
Jerry said that he learned a lot in his Ironman journey, but he still remembered his Mom's words of "have no regrets" and "life is too short."
He agrees. "That's great advice to people, no matter what their work or personal goals are. Have a goal, find a way to achieve it, work hard to get there, and enjoy the journey as well as the finish line. Don't wait for 'someday.' Start working today."
It sounds like Jerry has followed that wise advice in both his aviation business and personal goals, and achieved a lot of success and happiness along the way. His parents would be proud.