On January 23, 2014, I met Jack and Donna Babb at the Marco Cruise Club Commodore’s Ball. It was the first time we attended the Commodore’s Ball. Jack and I discussed many things, including flying. Jack flew P-51 fighters during WWII and was a P-51 instructor. We met for lunch the following week.
Shortly after, we met for lunch with four WWII veterans at Wings South. Wings South is a fly-in community in Naples. There were seven of us at lunch. Jack and I went to the pancake breakfast/fly-in at the Naples airport.
In April 2016, it was my privilege to escort Jack on an “Honor Flight” to Washington DC. It’s a day I’ll never forget. It was a long day. We met at 2 AM. We got home about midnight. We traveled to Fort Meyers airport on a bus, with three police escorts. We flew to Washington on a chartered airliner with many other veterans. My wife escorted a WWII Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) Shutsy Reynolds, on the same flight. It was an incredible day! It made you proud to be an American. There was such an outpouring of love and respect for the veterans. The rain did not dampen our spirits.
There is an organization called “Ageless Aviation” that gives plane rides to veterans. Previously, they came to my home town, Latrobe, Pennsylvania, to give rides to WWII veterans. When I heard they were coming to Florida, I suggested they come to Marco Island, and give rides to local veterans. In December 2016, they came to the Marco Island airport. Ageless Aviation gave rides to five WWII veterans, and Donna Babb’s grandson, Donald. Donald is a marine veteran. The local newspaper did a feature story about the Ageless Aviation rides.
In July 2017, we attended the big airshow in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. At Oshkosh, Jack got a ride in a P-51, like the plane he flew during WWII. I was not sure he’d ever get the smile off his face!
In October 2017, Pat and I traveled with Jack and Donna Babb to New Orleans. We went to visit the World War II Museum and participate in a WWII Weekend. The museum and the hospitality were great! I highly recommend the WWII museum. What fun! Actor Gary Sinese joined us during the weekend. We spent time with two female WWII WASP during the weekend. We were guests of honor at Antoine’s restaurant, the oldest restaurant in the city.
In January 2019, Jack and I flew to Lakeland, Florida for lunch with other pilots. I would not let Jack take the controls on the plane. I was sure he would do loops or rolls.
We continue to enjoy lunches at Wings South airpark, with a group of WWII veterans. The crowd continues to grow. Last month, there were twenty-two people.
Jack and Donna have taken our families for many rides on their boat. The scenery is always beautiful. We saw many dolphins. My family said the boat ride, with the “dolphin watch” was the best part of their trip to Florida.
I’m very grateful for my friendship with Jack and Donna. They have touched our lives in so many ways. We continue to enjoy their friendship.