Adios to the Duke

The last hurrah

As much as I loved flying Duke N33WF, the cost was twice that of a Baron. Prudence required me to face reality and sadly I sold it. The good news was that I flew the plane for almost two years and more than 300 hours, yet sold it for more than I paid for it.

But before it flew away, three-three-whiskey-foxtrot left me a few more wonderful memories:

Paris is more than a city in France.

On two occasions, Paris Donehoo, then pastor at Park Ridge Community Church, precipitated wonderful flying experiences.

A dark and stormy night

When I was flying the Red Baron, Paris asked if I could fly him over to Ann Arbor, Michigan and pick up a candidate for youth pastor. Always looking for an excuse to fly, I leaped at the chance. The weather on the way over was fine.

The return flight was at night, and as we approached Lake Michigan I began to see lightning flashes ahead. The radar revealed nothing threatening, and the ride was smooth so we forged ahead. Then for the next thirty minutes lightning flashed all around us, but still no bumps. And that’s the way it was all the way back to Palwaukee.

When asked if I was frightened, my reply was simply, “With two members of the clergy on board, what could possibly go wrong?!” The truth is, when weather or anything else demands attention, focus displaces fear. Fear and worry can come later. And later we were safe. So why be afraid?

A rare view of our city

Some years later, Paris again asked for a ride. This time it was to take the Jump in the Saddle band – made up of fellow members of our congregation – to a gig in Jacksboro, Tennessee. They invited me to attend the performance, but silly me, I spent those few hours in the FBO office sorting through tax records.

O’Hare at night

By the time they returned to the airport, it was late. Departing after midnight, our flight carried us into the wee hours of the morning. Which led to another delight.

The usual route to Palwaukee from the southeast is to fly out over Lake Michigan until reaching the northern suburbs, then turn west to the airport. But not at 2 AM! From thirty miles south of the city, ATCcleared us directly to the airport. That’s right through airspace reserved for airlines! But the big birds were all on the ground, fast asleep. 

Park Ridge Community Church at night

The night air was crystal clear. We flew down low over the Chicago Loop, up Milwaukee Avenue, then right over downtown Park Ridge and our church with its tall steeple brightly lit. A visual treat none of us will ever forget.

Whirlwind trip

One of the last trips Marie and I took in the Duke included five stops, each with a different memory. Two spots stand out.

Meet with the President
President George H. W. Bush

Washington, DC was the venue for the annual Magazine Publishers of America CEO conference. Any conference attended by the heads of Time, Hearst, Conde Nast, Playboy, etc. was an event to remember. But this one included a briefing with President George H. W. Bush. 

Months before the event, we were required to submit enough credentials that I thought we would qualify for access to top secret files. I was surprised we didn’t have to submit blood and urine samples.

When it came time to meet with the president, the security forces were still in command. On a beautiful summer day, we had to board a school bus for the two block ride to a side gate at the White House grounds. There we lined up single file like a kindergarten class.

Just ten minutes later, plans changed. All forty of us walked around the corner to a different gate. I had to chuckle. Being herded like a lamb in a flock was not especially alien to me, but I wondered when the last time some of these execs had been just a member of the herd. Yet not a single word of complaint did I hear.

While waiting to enter the briefing room, Don Kummerfeld, president of MPA, asked Marie if she had her question ready. She quietly turned to me, “Me? Have a question for the president of the United States? Who’s he kidding?” But I knew Marie. She was already thinking. 

At the briefing, the president opened with an update on some important news relating to world affairs – I can’t remember what – then took questions from the attendees. Subjects varied from Wall Street to Silicon Valley – all very sophisticated and worldly – and all over my head. 

I loved the smooth way the briefing was terminated. An aid informed the president (making certain we could all hear) that he had time for one more question. Rather than an abrupt end, it felt like we were getting an encore. On this day, President Bush graciously said he’d take three since he was a few minutes late getting started. 

For his third and final question, President Bush scanned the room. And pointed to Marie. “As publishers, we’re all interested in the printed word,” she said. “Of course we know you have stacks of material to read every day, but what do you read for pleasure?” He was surprised for an instant, then a smile crept across his face as he shared what was currently on his nightstand. All the wire services picked up his reply and the following morning the answer to Marie’s question was in every major newspaper across the country.

The excitement didn’t end there. One of President Bush’s assistants called Marie to say how pleased the president was to be asked a personal question. When the call came in, Marie was conducting a job interview. A colleague interrupted, “Excuse me, Marie, but President Bush’s assistant is on the phone for you.”

She hired the job candidate and later learned he swore that the call from the president was a set-up.

Another great visit

Among the stops on the way back from the conference, we visited an advertiser in the New York City area, Frank Martucci of Viking Sewing Machines. After having multiple heart issues, Frank moved upstate from the city to a farm where he and his wife Vicki kept horses and chickens. 

Frank had grown up on a farm, so rising before the sun to do chores before heading to the city for work took him back to his childhood. And his wife Vicki had spent her youth in central Illinois teaching horseback riding. They were in heaven. Frank maintained that living back on the farm saved his life. 

On most days, when chores were completed Frank and Vicki headed to work. Vicki dropped Frank at his office in New Jersey then headed into the city. Imagine the look on cab drivers’ faces as this little blond girl in a giant black pickup truck jousted with them in Manhattan traffic.

The serenity of Martucci’s farm was a quiet haven that always left our hosts prepared to reenter the urban rat race. Even city-girl Marie, who usually slept best with the roar of an elevated train outside her window, awakened totally rested.

In the morning, we all walked around the farm with a stop at the chicken coop. I had never thought much about the freshness of eggs. But the dozen we collected and fried for breakfast gave me a whole new perspective. I swear the yolks popped up and smiled at us from the frying pan.

U. S. Military Academy

After breakfast Frank took us to the U.S. Military Academy. When we arrived at Stewart AFB the day before, I had no idea we were landing where aviation-minded cadets trained during WWII. During the Revolutionary War, General George Washington established the post at West Point to keeping the British from reaching points farther north on the Hudson. Everywhere we walked, I was overpowered by the vibes of more than two centuries of American history.


44 years ago on New Year’s Day, Marie and I exchanged vows. We had been friends and colleagues for nearly four years and in love for more than a year. Our honeymoon was brief, however. At 9 AM January 2 all four of our kids (from prior marriages) were knocking on the front door.

This coming New Year’s Day, we’re going to have an extended honeymoon as we cruise for more than a month in the South Pacific, New Zealand, and the Great Barrier Reef. Whether internet access is available or not, I won’t be using it … and won’t be posting anything new.

I look forward to returning to y’all in mid-February. G’Day, Mates.

* * *

New types: None

New ratings: None

Total flying time to date: 1,866 hours

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