VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Jan. 2, 2020 – When D’Aaron Brown left school to pursue other opportunities, his grandfather told him he needed to either join the military or find a job.
Ironically, it was the same speech his grandfather heard from his own father when he was discharged from the Marines. He had to find a job.
All three did find a job…with Virginia Natural Gas.
For D’Aaron Brown, his grandfather, André Perkins and his great-grandfather, William Perkins, it’s all about tradition and pride for this family’s history with the company.
Together they have served the customers of Virginia Natural Gas for a combined 70 years beginning in 1955.
You could say they have natural gas in their DNA.
D’Aaron, an operations mechanic with Virginia Natural Gas for the past five years, wasn’t even looking to start a career with the company. He remembered the many hours his grandfather worked and wasn’t sure that was the path he wanted to take.
But after spending some time at a local community college, he decided he wanted to pursue something else.
“I told him the same thing I heard from my father,” said André, also an operations mechanic who retired in 2018 from the gas company after 40 years. “You need to get a job or go into the military. My dad worked for the company for 25 years as a machine operator and helped to set me on my path, so I figured I would do the same for D’Aaron.”
Providing some “grandfatherly” advice, including introducing D’Aaron to some of the people he worked with, fueled an interest within him for the industry.
“Everyone knew my grandfather, his reputation as a hard worker and someone who could be counted on to get the job done,” said the 25-year old D’Aaron. “I really liked what I saw and decided to apply. It was the best decision I ever made.”
D’Aaron’s road to employment with Virginia Natural Gas took almost the identical route as his grandfather Andre’s did in 1978. Having served in the Marines for four years as a military police officer, André received an honorable discharged and came home to Norfolk to start his second career.
He decided he wanted to become a police officer for the city of Norfolk, but his dad, William, wasn’t “…having any of that because it was too dangerous.” Just like he had done for his grandson, André’s father took him to the shop to meet the people he worked with, introducing him to the company.
“It’s funny how life has a habit of repeating itself,” said André. “My father was very well-known at the company (then VEPCO). He told everyone I needed a job and the next thing I know, they asked me to interview and I was eventually offered a job!”
When André eventually worked his way up to an operations mechanic, his father William, who would retire a year later in 1979, had only one piece of advice for him.
“My dad got injured one time and recovered from it, but never spoke of it,” said André. “He just told me to be careful and take care of those around me.”
It was valuable advice for an up-and-coming apprentice. André passed the same words of wisdom to his grandson, D’Aaron, and added a bit more from his own 40-year experience.
“Not only did my grandfather tell me to work hard every day,” said D’Aaron, “but to also treat people the way I want to be treated. It’s something I remember every day when I’m out on a job serving customers.”
The parallels the three mechanics share doesn’t stop in the advice given or the way they were hired. As a close-knit family, they also talked to one another, feeding off each other’s experience.
They were mentors to each other.
André and his dad would share a ride to and from work every day. And while they never got to actually work together on the job, they were able to share father-son moments as well as talk as colleagues for 30 minutes a day, all while listening to the latest country music on the radio.
“We would talk about our day and the projects we worked on, or maybe just sports,” said André. “But it was those moments when my dad treated me as a work equal that were so special.”
That is another family tradition that was passed down to D’Aaron, the newest addition to the family lineage at Virginia Natural Gas. Every day he calls his grandfather to talk about his day or ask questions about how he can do things better.
“My grandfather is not just family, he’s my greatest mentor,” said D’Aaron. “We had the opportunity to work together once on a project and to be able to share that experience with my grandfather is something I’ll never forget.”
While the eldest, William, has passed, grandson and grandfather agree that life has a habit of coming full circle. The job is not easy and there are risks involved, but it has also been a very rewarding career with a great company.
Talking to both André and D’Aaron, they turn and look at each other, shaking their heads in agreement. Not only are they family but consider everyone at Virginia Natural Gas family as well.
“When I was hired by the company, my father’s friends became my friends,” said André. “When my grandson D’Aaron joined the company, my friends became his friends. It’s a tough job, but friends, like family, always have your back.
“This is a great company to work for. With 70 total years invested in this company between us, we hope it’s a legacy we can pass on.”
About Virginia Natural Gas
Virginia Natural Gas is one of four natural gas distribution companies of Southern Company Gas, a wholly owned subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO). Virginia Natural Gas provides natural gas service to nearly 300,000 customers in southeast Virginia and has been recognized as one of the safest, most reliable and customer-focused natural gas service providers. Consistently ranked in the top quartile for customer satisfaction by J.D. Power and Associates, the company has also been recognized by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy and the Virginia Oil and Gas Association for its safety, community outreach and educational programs, and was named Local Distribution Company for three consecutive years. Virginia Natural Gas has been ranked by its business customers as being one of the most Trusted Business Partners in the utility industry according to Cogent Reports, and as one of the Top Workplaces in Hampton Roads by Inside Business. For more information, visit virginianaturalgas.com and connect with the company on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
About Southern Company Gas
Southern Company Gas is a wholly owned subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE:SO), America’s premier energy company. Southern Company Gas serves approximately 4.2 million natural gas utility customers through its regulated distribution companies in four states and approximately 700,000 retail customers through its companies that market natural gas. Other nonutility businesses include investments in interstate pipelines, asset management for natural gas wholesale customers and ownership and operation of natural gas storage facilities. For more information, visit southerncompanygas.com.
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