Three Friends Gone
But Not Forgotten
From December to February the Northeast Chapter lost three valued members, Hank VanValkenberg, Bill Mead and Joe Dille. They were more than just fellow pilots, they were friends who understood the miracle and joy of flying. While we did not see each other often, the love of flight forged a bond not easily understood by those who do not fly.
In times of stress or of sorrow, such as the experience of losing a pilot friend, one often turns to the familiar which provides comfort, bringing back stability out of chaos. Thinking about the loss of these three fellow pilots, I turned to familiar words written by John Gillespie Magee, Jr. whose words are among the most beautiful ever written in the English language.
Oh I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughtered-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of-wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
Our three friends, Hank, Bill and Joe understood the meaning. Reading them makes me feel a little better.