WILMINGTON — “It just went crazy. I became the poster child, I guess.”
Ten years ago Michael O’Machearly was let go from DHL as a bus driver, but the next thing he knew, he was making TV appearances all around the globe and his longtime hobby became a full-time gig.
O’Machearly, now 56, had worked at DHL before for 11 years out on the ramps, and when he was “young and dumb” he got fired. He was able to come back later and spent two years as a bus driver — until the day was let go.
He said he was amazed that it has been 10 years since DHL left Wilmington; he can still remember multiple houses that had signs stating “Proud ABX employee lives here.” Some houses had four or five of them.
“That’s when they put me on ‘60 Minutes’,” he said
From a weird series of circumstances and from a lady telling CBS News about him, as he put it, the next thing he knew he was being interviewed by “60 Minutes’” Scott Pelley.
The interview featured him talking about how the job loss would affect him and his family. He talked about his son Steven, who died in a helicopter crash in Iraq while serving in the Army in 2003. And he talked about his custom knife business.
When the “60 Minutes” segment aired, his cell phone, landline, and email lit up with orders.
“That night I became a full-time knifemaker,” he said. “I went from a six-month backlog to a two-year backlog in one day.”
But “60 Minutes” wasn’t his only small-screen appearance.
Two days after the premiere, CBS came back and shot a segment for the Early Show, then he was interview by a German TV station, a Russian station, a Spanish station, and he appeared twice on Mike Huckabee’s.
He thought he would’ve been nervous talking to these individuals, but he described the experience as very cool but also surreal.
“Sometimes it hit me that two tragedies in my life have caused this. My son dying and me losing my job. I never said ‘Oh I’m going to use this as a platform.’ It just happened,” he said. “I mean, here’s Scott Pelley interviewing me. I shared a sandwich with the guy. I mean, it was kind of surreal.”
In those 10 years, he not only has the knife shop, he also has a leather shop to make the sheaths to go along with the knives, he almost has his house paid off, and he spends time with his grandson, who he is raising.
“If he wants to go fishing, we’ll go fishing. I’ll do the work later,” he said.
As for retirement, he has no immediate plans for it.
“I’ll fall over at the grindstone happy someday,” he said.
Overall, he says he’s doing OK. and attributes this to two things.
“I just attribute it to God and my son Steven looking out for me,” he said.
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574