Louie Rice and I
To my cousin Louie: Who first soloed, November 4 1944 and at age 82
in Dade City, Florida, made his last flight west, November 9, 2006.
From the age of 10 my brothers Bruce, George and I grew up in the same household
with Louie, his brother Harold and sister, Carol. We had lost our
father at an early age and our Mother became incapable of caring for
us. Fortunately for us, our Aunt Ruth and Uncle Clarence took us in
and raised us with the same loving care as they gave to there own
and a bond was formed that would last a life time.
After World War II military service, Louie with the Navy and I with
the Army, in 1948 we pooled our resources and bought an airplane.
Louie had earlier learned to fly and was now an instructor and he
taught me to fly in our Taylorcraft BC-12D. I still remember my
first solo flight when after takeoff I glanced over to my right and
there was no one in the seat and for the first time I realized that
I was on my own. Fortunately, Louie had taught me well and I got
around the traffic pattern and made a descent landing. Louie noted
that I had soloed in less flying time than he had. Of course he said
it was because I had a much better instructor. And I am sure
that I did !!!.
From there our aviation careers took different paths. Louie, a
Commercial Pilot and Flight Instructor with Welch Aviation in Alpena
and later with Northern Air service in Grand Rapids. While with
Northern Air he became an
FAA designated flight examiner on Lear Jet aircraft. Before he
retired he would be a part owner of the company.
I chose to use my GI Bill to become an FAA licensed aircraft
mechanic. While attending Mechanics school in California I joined
the Air National Guard and after completing the school I accepted a
full time position with the Guard as an Aircraft Mechanic and later
as a Flight Engineer. After retiring from the Guard I spent the last
15 years of my flying career as a Flight Engineer with Southern Air
Transport, a cargo Airline.
Over the years Louie and I did not get together often. But on those
occasions when we did, it was memorable. We always had a lot in
common. After all we had both, to paraphrase the poem High Flight,
“Slipped the surly bonds of earth….And did those hundred things you
have not dreamed of”. We would sit at his basement bar and talk for
hours. A lot about flying but also about life. I was always
impressed with his knowledge and insight on both subjects.
To the rest of the world, Louie Rice was just my first cousin. But in my heart he
was my brother. The last time we talked, face to face, in September
2005 he said that he felt of me the same way. I shall always cherish that
Miss you, Louie. I will miss you a lot.