I’M GOING TO MISS MY DEAR DAD – BUT HE WENT OUT IN A WAY PEOPLE ONLY DREAM OF…
August 29, 1937- Sunday, June 24, 2018
“Tell my wife I love her very much she knows
Ground Control to Major Tom
Your circuit’s dead, there’s something wrong
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
“Here am I floating ’round my tin can
Far above the moon
Planet Earth is blue
And there’s nothing I can do”
Bill was an awesome dad, brother, father, grandfather, and a wonderful husband to my mom, just weeks shy of their 52nd wedding anniversary. ❤
Since my awesome dad’s passing on Sunday has been in the news since Monday, I want to do little tribute, now that family definitely knows.
Dad, you went out in style, the way people only DREAM of.
You did it your way.
My father, Bill, just shy of his 81st birthday, was one of the most experienced hang-glider pilots for 40 long years. Though he had flown around the world, Dad was flying high above his hometown of Chicago for about an hour, when he appears to have had a cardiac event/arrest (according to coroner’s initial findings), and his dear friend and buddies, flying up there in nearby hang-gliders (and coroner), felt that he’d already passed over in the air, well before his faithful hang-glider carried his body slowly and gently back to planet earth. There’s no motor on these babies, and once he passed over, he was no longer flying his hang-glider, but his glider flew his body back to us.
He ascended while he descended if you catch my drift…
The glider did what the news said were “slow lazy circles” and landed in a soybean field (probably GMO), but better than a highway, a house, or country road; no one was harmed, and Dad was already soaring home long before he reached the ground, which brings us all comfort.
Heck, even friends and family said what a way to go…
Yes, the news rushed to report your passing, Dad, in less than 24 hours, but they were so fair reporting it, just as I’m sharing now with friends and family.
As the owner of the airport (where they tow the gliders up by plane) said to the news, when this happens to a pilot while in mid-flight, the glider will eventually float to the ground, landing… It might have been a little rough landing, with a nose dive, as my dad was no longer in his body to assist it with that smooth landing, but he was in one piece, as his spirit was already being carried home by angels.
I knew when I got the call very shortly after, that this was the case, as he was one of the best pilots ever.
My dad had logged thousands of flights in his hang-gliders, for 40 years, from the California mountain tops, to Lookout Mountain Tennessee, to launching off the top of Mt. Haleakalā in Maui, at over 10,000 feet! No motor. And he’d had flights that lasted countless hours, just floating in those thermals at cloud base and above, saying he got high naturally… right up to the end.
I got to watch him tow, drive in the tow car, tow planes, fly tandem with my dad, and watch those sweet landings.
Long before he was flying, he was driving a delivery truck for food at the tender age 12 years old in the city of Chicago. Once a cop pulled up next to him. ￼ The cop rolled down his window and asked my dad, “are those sandwiches any good?“. Yes officer. My dad said. Close call. I started work about the same age babysitting around the neighborhood, but no driving delivery trucks in the city! 🙂
Growing up I was always amazed how he could fix most anything, once wired an entire house just for fun to see if he could, was tech savvy beyond the rest of us.
I also was so proud of his activism. He had such a passion in life for doing the right thing. For helping others, and for not being afraid to speak out.
Dad started credit unions for the low-income sector, soared in his job, though if asked “what do you do” he’d say he was a father, husband and loved aviation. No what do you REALLY do? They would ask. Oh, my job? He’d say. Then he’d tell them his day job essentially a software engineer but didn’t let it define him. He served in the US Marines, stationed in Oahu and lived with his family (including me!) in a VW pop up camper traveling through Europe in the early 70’s!
I thought I lost him when the tornado took our home, cat and dog, in 1991. We had friends visiting (hang-glider pilots, but of course) and I found him searching in the rubble for me in TOTAL shock (I never saw him like that before) but his hang-gliding buddy (also named Bill) helped to get a plan as we looked to salvage anything we could- especially photos.
He talked to the news on TV about the beautiful reunion we had back then. It was the only time he got teary-eyed during the interview.. I think in some ways I thought us both invincible.
You understand my parents would go to rock concerts with their friends and some of those friends were my age! I told that to one of the pilots this week, and he said yeah. Your parents were just cool like that. The memorial will definitely span many ages.
I know one thing he wouldn’t want is for anyone to be scared of hang-gliding. I took some lessons at age 16 without so much as a scratch, and I’m thinking of taking them again. He was such an inspiration. I want to repeat that he was gone or going, to eternal life, long before his body or glider reached the ground.
Dad (Bill) also had flown primarily hang-gliders, but also sailplanes, small planes, and trikes (ultralights – nonfixed wings) for decades. I’d flown with him l, as we’d soar above Chicago, and he’d turn the motor off in the ultralight. We were just sale for a while or he would do crazy acrobatics with the craft which I loved. My mom didn’t like that when she flew with him, which is understandable. It was wilder than any roller coaster ride, but I suppose we were thrill seekers. ￼That was my favorite part. He’d been one hell of an instructor too, teaching students to fly without a hitch.
I’m so glad he got this one last flight before his spirit was carried home.
I know you said you’d come down in October with Mom to watch the dozens of magical sea turtles nests out in front of the house here, more than anyone has ever seen.
But I know you’ll be here in spirit.
And i’ll take the advice you gave me on Father’s day to take a day off once in a while, and “have some damn fun.” I savor those last conversations that I wrote about the weeks before you passed…
You see, Dr. Mercola (my Joe) JUST lost his own dad and said: “Erin you NEVER know when he is going to go!” Tell him all the things you never did. And I did! All just days before he died.
How fortunate I am. I’ll be up in Chicago with all the family, friends and tons of pilots friends from all around the planet (a few who said half-jokingly they’ll need therapy after losing Bill) to celebrate Dad’s long life.
It turns out the celebration of life will be on Joe’s birthday (Dr. Mercola) but he’ll be there so we’ll definitely acknowledge his special day, even though he wants it to be about dad.
I didn’t even get into how he drove me on his motorcycle Honda 750 when I was six and I yelled faster faster! (with helmets of course) Once he broke his collarbone in that one wipe out, I think he decided hang-gliders were safer and I think in his case, he was right!
He taught me to ride a bike, drive a car (stick shift) taught me how to be a hard worker and save save save. But he also taught me how to live. He was a philosopher of life. I have been on the phone most of the last two days with people to tell them and one word they used to describe him…Earnest. That sums it up so well.
As someone said to me today; Bill was a hero to so many hang-glider pilots still soaring those skies and jumping off mountains in his eighties, but now, after pulling this off? Now he’ll be a legend.
I miss you Dad… We all do so so much. See you on the other side ❤
Love your favorite (…ok… only!) daughter, Erin Elizabeth