My dad died in November of 1998. He had a hard life at the end. About three years before, he suffered a severe head injury in a car wreck that left him brain damaged. He could function well enough, but his judgement was severely impared. Telemarketers scammed him for about $15,000. (Fortunately his credit union noticed suspicious activity and everything was resolved favourably.) He went to live with my sister. Three months before he died he was out on the Colorado River riding Jet Skis when he broke his leg. That’s what did it. He was on medication for his head injury, and the added medication for the leg injury were too much for his system. Acute pancreatitis.
Still, he was freaking active up until the end – at least until he was injured on the river. Dad tried to join the army after Pearl Harbor. They wiped his nose and sent him home. When he was old enough, he joined the army signal corps. Apparently he was involved, like many thousands of soldiers, in the A-bomb tests. After two years in the army he enlisted in the Navy. Combat air crew in Korea in a Douglas AD-4 Skyraider. Served aboard Philippine Sea and Lexington. After that he was running radar intercepts in a Constellation. He thought his impressive performance there was what got him into OCS. He became “a gentleman by order of Congress” in 1956. When I came along in the 1960s he was the Communications Officer aboard CLG-5 Oklahoma City – flagship of the 7th Fleet. After retiring with 22 years of military service under his belt, he joined the Federal Aviation Administration. Twenty-two years there.
Dad was a pilot (CFII, multi-engine) and served as the Standards and Evaluations Officer for the Group 3 of USAF Auxiliary, Civil Air Patrol. He taught me to ride a motorcycle. He taught me to clean a fish. He filled me with a love of flying. He taught me myriad things.
I think I got my sense of humour from him. He was always quick with a joke. He taught me to be a gentleman. He taught me honour. Dad was well-loved by everyone he met. The neighbourhood kids knew “Uncle Woody” was always good for an Oreo in the afternoon. His Easter egg hunts were neighbourhood-famous. When pilots were stranded because of the frequent high winds in the desert, there was always a couch waiting for them at dad’s place. Once he went out and picked up Chuck Yeager and drove him back to the airport after his AC ultralight (remember those commercials?) was forced down in the desert. For some reason, he was exceptionally proud of me (in spite of my predilection for flying helicopters instead of airplanes).
So today is dad’s birthday. I’ve lit a candle in remembrance and have said a prayer.
Happy Birthday, dad.