Tuesday, a few minutes before noon, I sat down at the Arlington Club luncheon table. Pete, who was seated next to me, was talking to David, also known as the "Eastside Guy" because of the column by that title he writes in Brainstorm NW magazine, across from us. They were talking about their flying experiences. Pete flies an opposed rotary piston 7-cylinder WWII trainer biplane. I asked Pete where he has his plane hangared. As it turns out, he keeps it right here in my neighborhood at the Aurora Airport.
He told me he tries to fly right over the river so he won’t bother the residents. I said, "We really enjoy the sound of the vintage aircraft that fly over our place." I went on to tell him about the red bi-wing seaplane that occasionally lands and takes off near our dock in the Willamette River right behind our place. Pete looked right at me and said, "I guess you haven’t heard that plane which belonged to 80-year old David Wiley, who was known as a legendary flight instructor, crashed and died in his plane Saturday." I had not been keeping up with the Oregonian, which reported the accident Sunday and did a follow-up profile story the day before our luncheon. All I could say was, "Oh no."
The same Saturday morning the accident occurred, our middle son, Barry, and his wife, Heather, had a
very formal 10-year marriage renewal ceremony in the backyard of their home which is also on the Willamette River on the east side of I-5. As my wife and I witnessed their inspiring renewal vows, we looked up at the red biplane in the white puffy clouds flying just overhead.
Only minutes later, after he had passed out of our sight, the strut on his left wing came loose and the wing broke free.
I was shocked, realizing that we had always looked forward to the first time we would see him land and take off each spring.
Pete said, "You know, he died doing what he loved. He died, you could say, with his boots on, like the story in the movie with Haley Joel Osment, Michael Caine, and Robert Duvall, the "Secondhand Lions".
The lesson I learned from David Wiley’s example is the importance of doing what I love and loving what I do all of my life. We never know how many more times we will be able to see the sun rise and set or hear a plane overhead. So I am renewing my vow to live my life with five times more enthusiasm every day of my life for the rest of my life.
Will you join me and make each day, every day, a day to look forward to as we fly higher with each passing year?