Three area seniors get flight of a lifetime

By By Dick Mason The Observer July 18, 2012 11:35 am

 

The flight was provided by pilot Darryl Fisher of Ageless Aviation Dreams, a  nonprofit organization based near Carson City, Nev., which provides biplane flights for seniors throughout the Northwest. 

Loree Leonard, who turned 89 on July 10, has spent much of her life reaching out to this community as a registered nurse and a leader of Neighbor to Neighbor Ministries. 

 A week ago Tuesday morning, the tables were turned. Leonard was the one receiving a gesture of goodwill.  

Leonard was given an unforgettable birthday gift  — a 15-minute flight over the Grande Ronde Valley in a 1942 Boeing Stearman biplane. 

The flight was provided by pilot Darryl Fisher of Ageless Aviation Dreams, a  nonprofit organization based near Carson City, Nev., which provides biplane flights for seniors throughout the Northwest. 

“It was wonderful,’’ said Leonard, who lives at Grande Ronde Retirement Center. 

Leonard will never forget how hard Fisher worked to make her flight an enjoyable experience, noting that he even carried her off the plane after the flight.

“That was the best part. That was very nice,’’ said Leonard, who was the leader of Neighbor to Neighbor, an organization that helps the less fortunate in Union County, for 16 years.

Leonard was one of three Grande Ronde Retirement residents who received biplane rides. Fellow seniors Dan Kramer and Sharon Jensen also found themselves airborne in Fisher’s World War II-era plane.

“I thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I had to take it,’’ Jensen said. 

The flight had a calming influence on Jensen.

 “It was not like I thought it was going to be. It was relaxing,’’ she said.

Jensen enjoyed the link to the past the biplane provided.

“I wanted to be part of history, and I feel like was,’’ she said.

Kramer, when asked if he would to take another flight on the plane, answered without hesitation.

“I would fly again tomorrow. I would love to.’’

Kramer, Jensen and Loree took off and landed at Union County Airport before a curious and excited group of fellow Grande Ronde Retirement residents who came to watch.

“It was just as exciting for the ones who were watching as the ones going up,’’ said Dona Duncan, the life engagement coordinator for the Grande Ronde Retirement Residence. 

Fisher’s stop in La Grande to provide senior flights was one of at least 10 he is making in Oregon, Washington and Idaho this month. Fisher also provided flights on July 10 in Pendleton and on July 11 in College Place and Richland, Wash.

 Fisher started providing Ageless Aviation flights a year ago. He is also able to provide them at no cost because of the support of his sponsors, which include Direct Supply, Alliance Insurance Group, PayLess Drug, Low-G Skin Pressure Protection System and Veterans of Foreign Wars. 

Fisher has provided more than 70 flights to seniors in the past year. Every passenger, once airborne, has the opportunity to get Fisher to stop the flight early with a simple thumbs-down gesture. To date he has received only thumbs-up signals.

Fisher speaks as if providing the flights is a labor of love.

“I’m privileged to be able to do it. My whole mission is to give back to those who have given.’’