My aunt, Deloris Johnson, lovingly know to all of us a Aunt Dee was one of the sweetest, most loving people I know. She could also be very protective of those she cared about too, however. She was very protective of her siblings, when she needed to be, but she really liked teaching them things, or buying them things that would be fun for the whole family. Things like the piano that was in my grandparents house for as long as I can remember. Lots of the kids “played” that piano at one time or another. Of course, none of us took lessons, so when I say “played” the piano, I use the term loosely. Nevertheless, I think Aunt Dee played it pretty well.
She was always helping her younger siblings to try new things. “Flying” in the wind, using a coat for wings, was a favorite for Aunt Dee, and the other children too. My mother, Collene Spencer, younger sister of Aunt Dee told me about how much fun they had when Aunt Dee was involved in the activities. I think it was all about the great imagination Aunt Dee possessed. When one of the kids has enough imagination to create fun situations, everyone involved has a great time. That fun person was Aunt Dee. She was the one that made everyone laugh, and I know that from the time she spent with our family. It was always fun to have Aunt Dee come over to our house. Her sweet smile put a smile on everyone’s face.
When we lost Aunt Dee to brain cancer in 1996, her passing left a hole in our hearts. My mom especially felt it, because they were really close. I can’t begin to imagine how much he passing saddened my mom. I can only say how sad it made me. Today would have been Aunt Dee’s 88th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Aunt Dee. We love and miss you very much.
Sometimes, you meet the love of your life the second time around. That’s how it was for my sister-in-law, Jennifer Parmely when she met her other half, Brian Cratty. These two are so much alike that they practically finish each other’s sentences. They have the same goals and they are going in the same direction with their lives. They have been a blessing in each other’s lives, and it is a sweet thing to watch.
Brian is rather a quiet guy, with a kind and loving spirit. I think he is most at home seated on his bicycle, weaving back an forth over the mountain trails. Brian and Jennifer have a friend who owned a cabin on Casper Mountain, and then moved away. While he was gone, he asked them to keep an eye on his cabin, and in exchange, they could use it whenever they wanted. They jumped at the chance, and when their friend decided to sell the cabin, he offered it to them, and they were delighted to buy it. Anyone who has owned a cabin on the mountains, know that there is always this or that improvement to do, and so Brian and Jennifer have been doing lots of updates to it so that they and their family can enjoy the beautiful scenery of Casper Mountain. Since they bought the cabin, it is their home away from home…when they aren’t traveling, that is. Brian and Jennifer love to travel to areas of the United States where they can find new trails to hike and bike…as well as seeing the local sights.
Brian is a licensed pilot, but I don’t know how much flying he does these days. I’m sure it is enough to keep his license in place. He was a pilot for the Wyoming Medical Center until his retirement from there, but as any pilot would say, flying is in your blood, and you fly every chance you get. He has done corporate flying, but I think he just likes being retired for the most part. Today is Brian’s birthday. Happy birthday Brian!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Brian Cratty, who is my sister-in-law, Jennifer Parmely’s partner, is just as athletic as she is. They love to hike, ski, snow shoe, and a variety of other activities together. Last September, they hiked the Colorado Trail, which culminated in 14,000 foot peak. Jennifer told me that it was pretty difficult, and since that is quite a bit higher than the highest hike I have made, I can only imagine. From what I understand, Brian did very well with it, however. Maybe the fact that Brian is a pilot has something to do with being able to acclimate to those higher altitudes. Brian is retired now, but he spent a number of years flying for Wyoming Medical Center, where Jennifer is a nurse.
While Jennifer likes hiking more than bicycling, the same cannot be said of Brian. When we decided to take a group hike, Brian went off ahead on his bicycle. He crisscrossed all over the trail we were on, but oddly we only saw him once while we hiked. Brian and Jennifer love to spend time on the mountain, and a while back, they came into a sweet deal. They had been using a friends cabin, in exchange for keeping an eye on it, and since he hadn’t been back to Wyoming to use it in quite some time, and had the need for some money to pay medical bills, he offered to sell the cabin to Brian and Jennifer. And they jumped at the chance. Now they spend as much time as they can, at the cabin, fixing it up and just enjoying it. It is going to be really nice when they get it done.
Jennifer has been so happy since she met Brian, and we are all very happy for her. They really make a great team. He is a kindhearted and compassionate person, and that has been a blessing over the past few years, especially when the family lost their dad, Walt Schulenberg. I don’t know if his compassion has to do with his years of flying Life Flight or not, but I tend to think that he is just a very kind person, and he understands the needs of those around him. It is a wonderful trait to have. Today is Brian’s birthday. Happy birthday Brian!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Through the years, or at least since the dawning of flight, man has tried to build flying machines that are more and more creative. Some of these have had amazing runs, like the B-17 Bomber, which was a World War II era plane, that still flies today. Others, like the Hindenburg, went down in a ball of flames. I don’t think it’s usually easy to predict which ones will succeed and which ones won’t. I seriously doubt that people would have predicted that the Concord would ever have the problems it had, or that the Goodyear Blimp would prove successful, where the Hindenburg failed. Sometimes, it’s all about finding yourself with just the right set of components, or making just one slight mistake…and sometimes, the mistake is more obvious.
The Hindenburg disaster, which occurred on this day, May 6, 1937, was probably the worst slight mistake in history. The Hindenburg was Germany’s version of the most luxurious way to fly in existence at that time. It was over 800 feet long and with its state of the art Mercedes Benz engine, it flew at 85 miles per hour, and had a range of 8,000 miles. The Hindenburg carried 97 passengers, and made ten successful ocean crossings the year before the disaster. It was Germany’s Nazi government’s symbol of national pride, but it held a secret mistake that, on May 6, 1937, exploded into one of Germany’s biggest failures.
The Hindenburg was filled with seven million cubic feet of Hydrogen. The Germans used Hydrogen because of its maneuverability, even though Helium would have been much safer. The Hindenburg was supposed to arrive in New Jersey at 5:00am on that fateful day, but bad weather delayed its arrival until the later afternoon. Even then, the weather was not ideal. Rain further delayed the docking at Lakehurst. When they were finally cleared to dock, Captain Max Pruss brought the ship in too fast and had to order a reverse engine thrust. At 7:20pm a gas leak was noticed. Within minutes, the tail blew up, sending flames hundreds of feet in the air and as far down as the ground below.
The chain reaction that followed caused the entire vessel to burst into flames. There were nearly 1,000 spectators awaiting the arival, who could feel the heat of the fire from a mile away. Those on the Hindenburg tried to jump. Some tried to jump to the docking cables, and when they fell, they were killed or critically injured. Others tried to jump as they got closer to the ground. Many were critically burned. In all 36 people lost their lives, while 56 managed to survive. Probably the main reason this crash has stayed in the minds of people over the years is that there were so many cameras to document the event. The photographs have become well known. Announcer Herbert Morrison, on WLS radio gave an unforgettably harrowing live account of the disaster, “Oh, oh, oh. It’s burst into flames. Get out of the way, please . . . this is terrible . . . it’s burning, bursting into flames, and is falling . . . Oh! This is one of the worst . . . it’s a terrific sight . . .oh, the humanity.” This truly was a disaster of monumental proportion, and it will never be forgotten.
I’m not a wind lover. In fact, most of the time the wind annoys me, but there are things that actually require the wind to accomplish their goal. I remember as a kid, trying to fly a kite a few times. I was never very good at it, which is probably why I didn’t do it very much. Nevertheless, I love watching someone, who knows how, fly a kite. There is just something about watching that kite floating effortlessly on air…provided I don’t necessarily have to be sitting outside in the wind when all that is going on. Watching from my car or my window works just fine for me. One of my favorite times to watch kite flying is when it is a little kid trying to do it. Their little legs just don’t go fast enough to get the kite in the air, but the have a really great time trying…at least for a while. Then they get frustrated, just like everyone else, and if you don’t help them get that kite in the air, they are pretty much over the whole thing.
I love watching the birds on a windy day. What we consider an annoyance, they look at as the perfect way to play. They spread their wings and head into the wind. The wind holds them in place, without even having to try to fly. And they can stay there like that for quite a while. It seems so effortless, and yet, it might be a lot of work for them for all we know. Nevertheless, to see a bird in hover mode is as cool as watching them soar into the wind in playful flight. Here in Casper, we have some pigeons that fly around in the downtown area. I know that the downtown merchants don’t really like them much, because of the mess they leave, but if you sit down for just a few minutes and watch them dip and soar, always in a group, always of one accord, always beautiful, you will find yourself having a hard time faulting them for the mess…or at least that’s how I feel.
For me personally, a windy day is such an annoyance. It messes up my hair, and believe me, there is not enough hair spray on the planet, instant freeze or otherwise, to make your hair stay in place on a windy day. Still, the kid me remembers wearing a jacket out on a windy day, and lifting it above my head to make a sail, and letting the wind pull me out into it a little. It makes me feel just a little bit like a bird or maybe a kite, and reminds me that even the wind has its good points, few as they may be. Maybe I should give that whole jacket sailing thing a try again sometime…I mean, maybe floating on air would lend a little bit of freedom to an otherwise responsibility filled life.
The B-17’s and B-25’s are back in town again this week, and of course, they always put me in mind of my dad. I can’t see one in the newspaper, or flying over without thinking of him. Dad was a Top Turret Gunner and Flight Engineer on a B-17 G Bomber during World War II. In his letters to his mom, he was so excited to be on this brand new plane that had never been used by any other crew. He was impressed with the ability of this plane, and felt very safe and secure when flying around in it. As a young man in the war, he was excited, and yet cautious, of course, because he was flying into combat zones, after all.
I can just imagine how he felt when he was flying in the B-17G Bomber, because he grew up working on things around the farm, and loving the train rides he got to take, and then working on planes at Douglas Aircraft Company, so actually flying around in something he knew so much about, had to be exciting. And then to have it be brand new…well, not many people had that opportunity in those days. My guess is that it was a good thing that they were already in the air, because otherwise he would have been floating around in the clouds without his crew. The feeling behind his letters gave a little view of just how excited he really was.
When the B-17G Bombers and the B-25’s came into town in August of 2007, Dad and I went out to go through them. Dad wasn’t feeling very well by that time, as he passed away in December of that same year, and somehow in my excitement in taking him out to see his beloved planes, I missed that little fact…at lease until I looked at some of the pictures I took, which showed a tired version of my dad that shocked me some. Nevertheless, we went, and Dad really did have a wonderful time. We took our time, and he told me so much about the time he spent in those planes. You could see just how he felt about them, because it was written on his face, and it was very obvious in his voice. He still loved those planes. They were a part of him, and he was a part of them. You can’t separate such a life changing event from the person who lived it. It changes them, and shapes them into the person they become.
My dad was a deeply caring, loving person, who always put the feelings and needs of others ahead of his own needs. He worried about his mom worrying about him, so he tried to reassure her at every turn. He was a man who loved God and brought his children up in the Lord, and a man who deeply loved his wife, our mother. He was a man who showed his love to those he loved, and taught them to love others and especially one another. He hated anger and fights, and taught us to forgive. Dads just don’t come better. The B-17G Bombers and the B-25’s will head out of town soon, and while I haven’t gone out to see them since my dad went home, the memories will last a lifetime.
My Aunt Deloris…Aunt Dee as we all lovingly called her…was an amazing woman who left us far too soon, and I still miss her very much. I remember her beautiful smile. She was always a very happy person. I have been thinking a lot about her lately, and had the chance to visit with my mom about her. Mom had a several great stories to tell that I think you will enjoy too.
My mom describes her sister as very inventive. One time when they were little girls, Aunt Dee came up with an idea that involved Grandpa’s long trench coat. She and my mom went out into the street. Aunt Dee put her arm in one sleeve of the coat and my mom put her arm in the other sleeve. They put their other arm around each other, and ran down the street into the wind. My mom said, with a far away look in her eye, “It felt like we were flying.”
When Aunt Dee was in 5th grade, her class learned the Mexican Hat Dance. She was so excited about it and enjoyed it so much that she came home and taught it to all her sisters and brothers. Mom can still picture that dance in her head. And another time, Aunt Dee went down to the river and got a bunch of fish and put them in a wading pool at the house, because she decided that the other kids would really enjoy it. And they must have, since it was never forgotten.
But, probably one of the greatest things my Aunt Dee ever did was when she heard that a place in town was selling pianos for a really great price, $35.00, which was a lot of money back then. Aunt Dee worked really hard to come up with the money, and went down, picked out a beautiful piano and gave it to her family. They all enjoyed that piano through the years, and as one of many grandchildren, I can say that her gift was even more far reaching than just her siblings and parents. It was played by grandchildren and great grandchildren alike. Little did you know, Aunt Dee, what a loving impact you would have on several generations of this family. You are loved and missed by all of us.