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Floyd Nabakowski

Floyd3

Most days, the staff at the Airway Heights Branch hear the man before they see him. His deep, resonant voice cuts a straight path, seemingly through walls. “Good morning,” comes the call. Then when, a moment later, they hear something like, “service with a smile,” they know someone has helped him top off his coffee.

Moments later, as if carried by that big voice, a small and frantic blur scurries over the floor.

Everyone at the bank, always knows when Floyd Nabakowski and Tillie, his Jack Russell terrier, arrive. They bring their own energy.

No one seems in much of a hurry at the INB in Airway Heights, but customers and employees alike take a little extra time with Tillie running around. A stout, gruff man in a black cutoff shirt walks in and calls out, “Hey Floyd: where’s that no-good-damn dog?” Tillie sprints to him from behind a desk, and the man stoops down to pet her with his whole self.

The unwritten rule is that when she’s here, “Tillie gets the run of the branch.”

Long before he became the owner of INB Airway Heights’ unofficial mascot, Floyd Nabakowski spent 22 years in the Air Force. He was never stationed at Fairchild, but his career took him from Alaska to Spain, Korea, and Japan. He was an airborne radio operator on reconnaissance B-36s flying out of South Dakota. A stint in the Inland Northwest found him marking time in a radio tower on Micah Peak. He closed out his career in Cambria, California — a place he describes as close to heaven — attaining the rank of Master Sergeant.

He would have liked to get a little higher, but in 1974, his wife decided she wanted to settle down, and felt strongly about coming back to Spokane. “She says, if you want to stay in the military, you can stay in by yourself,” Floyd says with a chuckle.

The pair settled in Airway Heights and built a house. Beverly worked as a nurse and Floyd took electronics courses, getting hired at Hanford, retiring again at 55, then going to work as a parts inspector at Telect for 7 years. Their life in Spokane was happy, but Beverly fought daily a muscular disease that slowly ate away at her. “It took 15 or 20 years because she was tough,” Floyd says, “but finally, a little over two years ago, she succumbed.”

“We’d been married 50 years,” he says, “didn’t seem like that long.”

Without Beverly, Floyd fills his days with these trips to the bank and weekend trips to visit two of his four grand kids. He corresponds with people via email and, in spring and summer, he has the additional frustration of watching the Mariners fumble through their pitching rotation. Other than that, he says he’s “just waiting for God.”

And while pain flashes at the back of his eyes when he talks about Beverly, and though he pretends these trips to the bank are just for Tillie, Floyd’s booming baritone raises a note or two when he’s shooting the breeze with people here.

“It’s never Floyd that needs to come in,” INB staff say, with a wry smile, “It’s always, Tillie wanted to come see you guys.

Still, Floyd doesn’t mind standing and chatting with everyone in turn, sipping from the mug Janet gave him, until Tillie looks at him with those big, insistent eyes.

“Alright then,” Floyd says, following Tillie to the door. “See you tomorrow. Or later this afternoon, maybe.”

And, like the deep, warm baritone that carried him in, a chorus calling Bye Floyd! follows after him.