Employee Spotlight: John Horowy creates a memorable moment for his neighbors

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Matt Lightcap and John Horowy playing music for their neighbors in Rockford, Ill.
The Hard Knock Kings, Matt Lightcap and John Horowy playing music for their neighbors in Rockford, Ill.

For the 78,000 employees across Collins Aerospace, there are likely 78,000 different ways in which our team is staying connected and supporting others during these most unusual times. For John Horowy, who has spent nearly four decades in product and manufacturing development at Collins, music is – and has always been – the source of some of his most meaningful connections.

Engineering his curiosity

For the past six weeks, John, who leads automation and electromechanical projects in Collins’ Advanced Manufacturing group in Rockford, Illinois, has been working remotely as a way to help slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

But he and his team haven’t missed a beat. The camaraderie he’s built with his colleagues over the years has allowed them to keep working seamlessly to advance their mission: pushing the envelope of design and development for the benefit of Collins customers. The work his team does, despite all the disruption COVID-19 has caused across the industry, continues to bring John a great level of satisfaction.

“We are a curious group of people,” he noted. “We strive to innovate in our jobs. We don’t know what we don’t know, and we don’t know where we would be had we not ended up where we are.”

Engineering his inspiration

If that last line sounds like it could be a song lyric, it’s because John spent his early years with a guitar in hand, listening to the likes of Johnny Cash, Johnny River, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. The right side of his brain craved a creative outlet, while the left side embraced a career in engineering and technical work.

The confluence of interests created a unique blend of intelligence – one capable of delivering more than 40 technical patents for Collins, as well as the cognitive capacity needed to catalog hundreds of songs ready to play at a moment’s notice.

Engineering The Hard Knock Kings

In 1975, John was in a high school band. As bands go, he thought they were pretty good. His classmate, Matt Lightcap, was in a rival band. There was no bad blood between these two, just a friendly sense of competition, as all high school bands tend to have.

Decades later, the two picked up their guitars and started focusing on their artistic similarities. John’s band, The Hard Knock Kings, needed a guitarist, which is what Matt does as a career. The two created an instant bond over their passion for folk, rock, and rhythm and blues and, before long, the band was playing gigs in their spare time all over the region.

The Hard Knock Kings were set to play venues around Rockford this spring and summer, but COVID-19 had other plans. The name of the band was fitting, as life has dealt some big blows to the Kings

Engineering a memorable moment

After weeks of working remotely in their respective homes, John called up his bandmate and asked if he could come over, jam with him – socially distanced on the front porch, of course – and spend some time catching up. Matt agreed.

From the top step of the porch on Matt’s century-old Victorian home, the two tapped into their treasure trove of tracks right there along Rockford’s breathtaking Harlem Boulevard in the Churchill Grove neighborhood.

“As we were playing, neighbors started opening their windows, others came over and set up chairs on the lawn,” John recalled. “It was our way of dealing with this crazy situation, but as it turned out, it helped a lot more than just us.”

Soon there was a steady stream of cars with windows open, slowing down to listen to the acoustic jam session. John estimated more than a dozen neighbors stopped by for their impromptu show. With toes tapping and tunes crooning, John and Matt played into the afternoon. What was meant as an escape for two friends, turned into a safe gathering of neighbors who needed their own break from their new reality.

“I went there intending to bring a smile to my friend’s face,” John concluded. “We ended up spreading a lot of love that afternoon. We had no agenda, kept our distance – and just came together as friends to play some tunes.”

Friendships, like a favorite song, can help us through the toughest of times. And, for one afternoon at least, John helped engineer a moment he and his friend – and a lot of their Rockford neighbors – won’t soon forget.

John Horowy with one of his 40 technical patents for Collins.
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