Remembering Mike Redwood, Southern Air Vice President
In 1954, Southern Air President George Costan was hospitalized and handful of times, often due to the feeling of a heart attack. Doctors gave him a clean physical bill of health but told him that if he didn’t stop operating his business, he could collapse from exhaustion. To keep growing Southern Air Conditioners, Costan needed help and he needed it immediately.
In March, Costan met a very personable VPI (Virginia Tech) graduate in Washington D.C. who was extremely knowledgeable in the residential heating and air conditioning field. He knew the man was more than qualified and hoped he and his wife would find their new start in Lynchburg by coming to work for Southern Air Conditioners. Costan extended a job offer and went back to work.
In April, he had another health scare and doctors told him to stop operating Southern Air Conditioners to save his health. As Costan stormed out of the doctor’s office and back to his office, there in the lobby stood Mike Redwood, the man he’d interviewed the month before, with his wife, Leah. He had moved, rented a town home, and was ready to help George Costan save Southern Air.
Redwood was immediately made a partner and took over all residential heating and air conditioning operations. He brought on lifelong friend Ward Sayre (the two served in WW2 together in as aircraft mechanics stationed in England) onboard as Service Manager as he helped stand up Southern Air’s Service Department. This was also during an industrial transition period where homes were going “all electric.” Southern Air had to adapt for the future or become a dinosaur. Costan and Redwood kept this company evolving.
June 11 1965, Mike and his daughter, Anita died tragically in a vehicular incident; the lives of his wife Leah, and their other three children, Karen, Barry and Larry were spared.
“Mike’s sudden death left an unfillable gap and he was missed in many ways,” George Costan wrote. “To this day, I’m certain that my own future, as well as that of Southern Air’s was saved by Mike’s decision to join us in 1954. He had a cheery, likable personality and he had a lot of friends. He loved people and it was always, ‘Hey, ole Buddy,’ to everybody.”
Honoring those who paved the way for us today is historically important.
“I grew up with Southern Air! Ward Sayre, Bob Clarke, Monroe Baldwin, and George Costan were family to us,” says Karen Redwood Powers, Mike’s surviving daughter. “I remember as a young adult managing a Pizza Hut on Old Forest Road. I went into work on Sunday with no A/C and they were planning to close for the day. I said, ‘Nope!’ and called my guys at Southern Air who came right over!”
“I just wanted to share my father with you. He was a very special man.”