C.J. Bostic. Photo courtesy of Southwest Airlines.

C.J. Bostic, Southwest Airlines’ first Black flight attendant, died of cancer in early January; she was 73.

Bostic, who lived in Lakewood Heights, was diagnosed with cancer four years ago. She is survived by her younger brother and sister, whom she helped raise when her mother died of cancer, and her father.

She was in the Dallas-based airline’s third class of flight attendants and joined the company in 1972, at age 23, less than a year after Southwest’s first flight.

Here is a statement from Sonya Lacore, the vice president of inflight at Southwest:

“C.J. was nothing short of an icon at Southwest Airlines, and the passion she displayed for the flight attendant profession was inspirational to all of us. She loved serving Southwest customers with her sense of warmth and fun and was a mentor and friend to thousands of her fellow flight attendants throughout the decades. We are better because C.J. shared her life with Southwest Airlines, and she will be remembered, and greatly missed, by all of us.”

Joanna Cattanach lived right across the street from Bostic neighborhood for several years.

She remembers the first time she met Bostic, about six years ago. They had just moved in.

“She knocked on my door in a Southwest Airlines flight attendant uniform,” Cattanach says. “And she gave us a gift and said ‘Welcome to the neighborhood.’ I was pregnant with my second child at that time, and was just really sweet. It was nice being welcomed like that.”

At the time, Cattanach and her family didn’t know about Bostic’s significance in the airline industry. They just knew her as an outgoing, friendly, “very approachable” neighbor.

Before she joined the airline, Bostic was a model for Neiman Marcus and Rothschild’s, according to a 2016 issue of Southwest: The Magazine.

“She was just stunning,” Cattanach says. “I mean, she would smile at you, and you were like, ‘Wow, this woman is stunning.’”

In 1973, Bostic and fellow flight attendant Deborah Franklin were on ABC’s The Dating Game.

Photo courtesy of Southwest Airlines.

Bostic’s property was the talk of the street. She was often seen tending to her garden, and Cattanach was always impressed with how she took care of it.

She didn’t realize who Bostic was until she took her sons to the Frontiers of Flight Museum, and they saw Bostic in the museum in one of the reels there.

“She didn’t brag about herself at all,” Cattanach says. “She just said, ‘I’ve been working there for a really long time.’”

Right before the pandemic lockdown, Cattanach’s mother-in-law, who’s from the Middle East, was visiting. She stayed there for a while because flights were stopped, and one day, Cattanach found her mother-in-law at Bostic’s house. She had brought Bostic some food, and Bostic then gave her a tour of her home. Cattanach thinks they got along so well in part because of Bostic’s experience on international flights.

“They just quickly had a great little neighborly friendship in an odd situation that we were in, and I just really appreciated that,” Cattanach says. “I was shocked.”

Cattanach says it seemed like Bostic was “never not on” when it came to being a flight attendant.

Here’s what Bostic had to say about her job, which she kept for nearly 50 years, in a blog post in 2011:

“What I want to say is that I love being a flight attendant today as much as I did in 1972. It is true that our world, our company and our customers have changed. Flying is no longer just for the wealthy or businessmen, and it’s certainly no longer a special occasion in itself. Frankly — for most folks, flying has become just a pain in the ‘rear.’

“What hasn’t changed is my love for Southwest and for flying. I mean, after 40 years, if I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t keep doing it. To do what we flight attendants do on a daily basis, you have to love people — and there are still lots of wonderful people out there to love. And after four decades — I’m still spreading the LUV that Southwest has showered on me.”

“She was impeccable with how she kept her house and how she kept herself,” she says. “But I will always remember her for being extremely friendly.”

If you look closely, you can see C.J. Bostic in the “Hostess of the Month” poster to the left of the cargo agent. Photo courtesy of Southwest Airlines.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated (1/17) with a statement from Southwest Airlines. 

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