John and I became friends in the 4th grade of St Matthews Catholic Grammar school in 1955. Our friendship grew because we shared a mutual love of airplanes, of fighter pilots and their stories of derring-do. We often spoke of the magic of manned flight, of the allure of the open sky, or of the types of airplanes we had seen flying in the air space around New York City. Of anything aeronautical. Both of us were hardly daredevil kids, but we shared daredevil dreams of flying P-51 Mustangs of F4U Hellcats. We shared a romance with the wild blue yonder.
In school we drew pictures of aircraft until the nuns slapped our hands. We built plastic WWII model airplanes when we could scrape a little money together, painted them up and admired them. We created airplanes from paper and again, got in trouble with the nuns.
We assembled and flew balsa wood airplanes that cost 10 cents at Herman's Gyp Joint and Sweet Shop. We mended them with tape when they splintered. And sailed and crashed them until they would fly no more. In later years, we flew gas engine aircraft in never ending circles on the end of a tether.
We remained close friends throughout high school and college. The Vietnam war split us up as he joined the Army and I the Air Force. Then marriage came along, kids, and true to our conservative natures, we both found jobs with major insurance companies.
We remained friends for more 50 years. Our lives diverged but always intersected again and again, many times if you don't mind me being redundant. We shared a lifetime of wondrous joys and great sorrows during these years, and always stayed in touch throughout. We could tell you some stories. But long story mercifully shortened, I am happy to say that John did fulfill his childhood dream of flying when he earned a pilot's license. I became an avid birdwatcher.
These last 5 years have not been kind to John, his health failing over that time. He would rally and appear to be headed in he right direction when another health issue would emerge to knock him down again. This last year has been particularly harsh. The last time I spoke with him 3 weeks ago, I noted a resignation in his voice that I had not heard before. He expressed concern for his wonderful wife who supported and endured with him every step of the way. But he was just tired. His decline mercifully ended last week when he passed away.
I think John would enjoy the following video as tribute to our mutual childhood dreams and our life-long friendship. This one's for you, Maverick. You are out of the danger zone now. God speed.