But “tough love” dictated that Chuck no longer drive. BJ
bought a different car, and Chuck rather accepted it as
being “her car” and was content to ride along.
Decline may sometimes seem gradual, but it is also
relentless. Chuck would wake up in the night and insist
he had to get down to the lobby and “meet up with the
crew.” BJ, being a long-time airline pilot’s wife, would
then invoke a phrase every airline pilot understands,
“Your flight’s been canceled.” Chuck accepted that.
None of this is meant to degrade anybody or anything.
It’s just…life. And I know you understand that.
On Chuck and BJ’s 57th wedding anniversary,
December 15, 2008, BJ greeted Chuck with, “Good morning, Chuckie boy; happy anniversary.”
“What?” Chuck asked.
“We’ve been married 57 years today,” BJ replied.
“Who told you that?” Chuck wanted to know.
“I’ve been around the whole 57, so I know,” BJ
answered. “We married when you were a copilot.”
Chuck remembered being a copilot but not getting
married. That exchange is what the vow “for better or for
worse” is about.
Chuck passed away peacefully, with family at his bedside, at a veterans’ affairs medical center on January 10,
2009. BJ said, with love, perspective, and wisdom, “He
had 84 very good years out of his 86.”
Chuck left a legacy of professionalism that, to this day,
is carried on by his family. His oldest son, Tom, is a cap-
tain on the MD- 11 for FedEx. His youngest son, Randy,
flies 757s and 767s for North American Airways, based
out of John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). And
Katie, their daughter, called after the US Airways ditching in the Hudson River and said, “Dad would have done
that–gone back through the airplane to see if everyone
Both sons gave eulogies at Chuck’s memorial. Both
mentioned that, as kids, BJ would sometimes take them
to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to meet their
dad at the end of a trip. Every time, if he knew they were
there, he would flash his landing lights three or four
times before pulling into the gate. Then, after shutdown,
he would do the same thing with his penlight from the
cockpit. Randy added, “Then my dad would step onto the
Jetway, and the passengers would thank him for a nice
flight, and I’d be thinking, ‘Wow, my dad’s something
special.’” Tom said, “My dad never smoked or drank, and
I never heard him use profanity. It was just his personal
choice, but he was not the least bit judgmental of others.
He simply gave us a strong personal foundation to do the
right thing.” Randy concluded with, “Hey, Dad, you’re
on takeoff roll now. Set the EPR and just keep on going,
because you can fly as high as you want now. I miss you,
and I love you.”
Now enter the Blackjack Squadron. They are a group
of pilots living in the Seattle, Washington, area who fly
experimental airplanes for various events and air shows.