Louie Rice and I
Louis W. Rice. spring of 1969    (Aug 26 1924 - Nov 9 2006)

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 !!!.
Louie after first solo at Ames, Iowa Nov. 4, 1944, in T-Craft BC-12D.
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 time.

Miss you, Louie.   I will miss you a lot.