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Flight of a lifetime: Four locals ride with the Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation
Darryl Fisher says he has two passions in life: seniors and airplanes.
The Carson City, Nev., resident has worked in the senior living and retirement business for years, and in 2011, he founded the Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation, where he travels nationwide with a 1942 Boeing Stearman plane used for training during World War II and offers free flights to seniors and veterans.
On Sept. 6, Fisher and his crew landed in Cape Girardeau, where they gave rides to four residents of Chateau Girardeau. He had contacted the retirement community just a few weeks ago, says marketing director Sheri Van Orden, and residents decided to hold a random lottery to determine who would get to ride the plane. The lucky winners were John Shelton, E.P. "Pug" Kurre, Gene Beussink and Kathryn Vance.
"If someone hasn't done this, they need to do it," said 94-year-old Kurre after his 15-minute flight.
The 94-year-old World War II veteran said he was a little apprehensive before his flight, but excited, too -- he had flown B17s during the war and took an Honor Flight a few years ago. His daughter, Gina Kurre-Rogers of St. Louis, had also driven down to watch his flight this morning.
Kathryn Vance, whose husband was in the Air Force for 20 years, said she had been in many small planes, but none like the Stearman she would fly in today. The couple had two children and lived from coast to coast, as well as in Germany for five years. It wasn't easy being a military wife, says Vance, but "as long was we were together, it was great."
Also looking forward to their flights were Beussink, a Korean War veteran, and Shelton, who, after returning to the ground, said it was a smooth, fun ride, though it did "blow his hair around a bit."
Fisher made 50 flights with his not-for-profit foundation in 2011, and 100 last year. As of Sept. 6, Fisher was in the middle of a Midwest Farmers Tour through Illinois, Missouri and Kentucky, and had already completed 200 flights in 2013. Fisher says about 70 percent of his foundation passengers are veterans, and after each tour, he signs and sends 8-by-10-inch photos to each passenger.
"These guys are heroes," says Fisher. "Even those who are not veterans have sacrificed. They built our country. It's an honor for us to say thank you."
Read more about the foundation at www.agelessaviationdreams.org.