Our Community Members on Cloud Nine
Seeing our community members thrive makes our hearts soar. So we thought it only fitting to return the favor. Rowntree Gardens is proud to partner with the Ageless Aviation Dream Foundation, an all-volunteer nonprofit organization that invites WWII and Korean War veterans, their spouses, as well as other seniors who had an aviation connection in their youth, to spread their wings flying in restored vintage airplanes. Through our partnership with Ageless Aviation, we’ve brought the first Dream Flights to Orange County.
To date, 34 of our community members — including several veterans — have flown out of Fullerton Airport in WWII-era biplanes. They’ve described the experience as unforgettable and exhilarating. Seeing the smiles on their faces and the sense of adventure in their eyes has been pretty unforgettable for us as well. Now we’d like to share their experience with you.
Here are videos of our community members soaring above the clouds and loving every minute of it!
Elroy was 15 when he enlisted in the US Navy. He served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid in the South Pacific. While supplying air cover for many Marine landings on various islands, the ship was hit 11 times with bombs while also suffering 4 Kamikaze attacks. They were also off the coast of Japan when the atomic bomb was dropped. We can’t begin to comprehend all that Elroy has seen, yet we are so very honored that he is with us today and that we were able to honor him with a Dream Flight.
Howard was a Sergeant in the Army Air Force where he would repair worn or damaged wings or body parts on B-29s. (Interestingly, the Steerman that is used for the Dream Flights is what was used to train the B-29 pilots) After WWII, Howard used his GI Bill to obtain a degree in Civil Engineering from USC and became a pioneer at CalTrans designing and building our SoCal freeway system. We are so glad that Howard went up in the Steerman to see part of the system he helped to build and that we were able to honor his service to our country.
Delvin enlisted into the Navy right out of high school and earned his way up to a Navy Commander. He served during WWII as a Navigator on several different submarines and he says he loved being on subs. Delvin said the longest duration he was on a sub without surfacing was 63 days but he was okay with that. After his time with the Navy, Delvin went on to serve at the Pentagon. Delvin was excited to get into the skies on his Dream Flight and we were just as excited to honor his amazing service.
Soula competed as a racewalker all over California, Europe, and Australia. In her 70s, she competed against 6,000 other racers at the World Championship and won Bronze. Always ready to challenge herself, she raced full speed ahead at the chance to defy gravity in a vintage biplane.
With only $675 in her budget, Shirley managed to fly to Mexico City, Cancun, New Orleans, New York, Boston, Iowa, and Niagara Falls. But this was her first excursion in a vintage biplane. She’s excited to share her Dream Flights adventure with her three adult children and five grandkids.
Lucy served as a PFC in the WACs during WWII. Serving on a base in Italy and sleeping in tents, Lucy got her exercise by swimming in the Mediterranean to avoid land mines. Her adventurous spirit leaped at the opportunity to fly over the Pacific in a vintage biplane.
While serving in the Navy during the Korean War, Joe was stationed off the coast of Korea in the General Quarters. During his service, he traveled across three-quarters of the planet with his shipmates and flew in helicopters. After exploring the globe by water, he was excited to explore the skies with Dream Flights.
A successful accountant who ran her own business, Fay married a pilot. Together, they flew their private plane, housed at the Torrance Airport, on local jaunts around the Southwest. Fay thought her flying days were behind her, so she was thrilled to get back into the cockpit and relive some of her favorite memories.
The wife of a Marine, Bonnie fondly remembers being surprised by her dad with a flight on a biplane when she was in third grade. When her mother found out her daughter had flown on the plane, she was furious. But Bonnie had the time of her life, and was excited to experience the joy of flying again.
Born in Germany, Eva learned English as a young student. Over the course of her adventurous life, she’s flown in many planes — big and small. But this was the first time she had climbed aboard a WWII vintage biplane. She found the experience thrilling, and hopes to be able to do it again.
The last time Diane flew in a biplane, she was just two years old. Still, she remembers that experience like it was yesterday. This time, Diane is a little bit older but was still filled with wonder at the sights of Newport Beach and the blue Pacific below her. She won’t forget this biplane adventure either.
Betty’s love of travel and learning about other cultures took her to Europe, the Fiji Islands, and Hawaii. Despite all her travels, she has never experienced a bi-plane and was eager to embark on her newest adventure.
As a nurse working in the operating room and offering her services at the Red Cross, June impacted numerous lives throughout her lifetime. Having been in a bi-plane one other time, June couldn’t wait to take flight again.
An experienced educator who dedicated her career to helping children, Dorothy is an adventurer at heart. She was beyond excited to take to the skies and fulfill her desire to fly.
Bobbi dedicated her life to helping others. She was a social worker for more than thirty years, working for the county and then starting her own company to help abused children. She’s flown all over the world but never in a bi-plane and couldn’t wait for this new experience.
An ordained minister with the Salvation Army and a decorated Army servicemember, Fred is no stranger to flight. He served in the Philippines in WWII and received 5 ribbons for his service in the Pacific. After the war, Fred learned how to fly a bi-plane. With his previous experience in the clouds, Fred felt right at home.
The daughter of a service man, Marilou grew up in Long Beach with her mother. She spent her life as a teacher, working to positively impact the lives of her students. Looking to follow in her husband’s footsteps (Kenny participated the previous year) Marilou was thrilled to have the opportunity to fly as well.
An adventurer at heart, Joan was searching for the opportunity to try something new. She jumped at the opportunity to take to the clouds and spread her wings.
As a corporal and medic serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, Jim helped save countless lives. So it’s only fitting to repay his service on the ground with a special trip in the air. This is Jim’s second time in a small place; he once flew to the top of Mt. Denali in a Cessna.
Bill served his country during the Korean War as an Airman First Class. While stationed in Japan, he had the unique opportunity to take a test flight in a new T-39 aircraft. He’ll never forget the pilot flying him over a volcano. Bill went on to work as a United Airlines mechanic for 40 years. We’re thrilled to see him in the co-pilot’s seat once again.
As an educator, Kenny taught himself everything there is to know about WWII planes, including the Boeing Stearman biplane he flew in with Ageless Aviation. He’s always been fascinated by planes and flight mechanics, so flying in the Stearman was a dream come true for Kenny.
Perse has spent her whole life seeking out adventure in every corner of the world. To date, she’s taken 38 cruises — and plans to take another one to Hawaii soon. In her globe-hopping, she’s completed eight land tours. Now with Dream Flights, she has the chance to see the world from a different perspective.
The wife of a U.S. Army Corporal who fought in the Korean War, Angelou has heard her share of exciting stories from her husband. She’s no stranger to adventure herself. As a young woman, Angelou had the chance to fly in a biplane. Her first response to the Dream Flights pilot as she climbed aboard the Stearman: “Let’s go!”
Not to be outdone by Angelou (his wife of 69 years), former Army Corporal and Korean War vet Tom also climbed aboard the 1944 Stearman for a tour along the coast. Though he’s seen much in the course of his lifetime, he told his pilot that flying the WWII-era biplane was a new experience for him — and one he won’t forget.
While serving with the U.S. Army in WWII, Private First Class Bill T. survived a total of 565 combat days on the ground. As part of field artillery, Bill helped man a massive Howitzer cannon. He fought in North Africa and across Europe. After fighting bravely on the ground for so long, we’re honored to take Bill for a tour in the sky.
WWII veteran pilot and Purple Heart recipient Colin was shot down over Germany in 1943 while flying his B-24 bomber. Colin survived 17 months in a POW camp, then made a daring escape on foot. We had the honor of helping this true American hero take to the skies again.
Ann’s husband served in the Navy as part of the Seabees — civilian recruits who helped fight and rebuild countries during WWII and the Korean Conflict. Hearing her husband’s stories of war-time travels made her long for adventure as well. Sitting in the co-pilot’s seat of a 1944 biplane, Ann found the adventure she was looking for.
Ed served as an Aviation Machinist Mate 2nd Class for the U.S. Navy in WWII. He recalls that the Navy pilots occasionally let him fly with them, and sometimes even take control of the plane. Ed found himself back in the co-pilot’s seat this past April, flying in a WWII-era plane much like the ones he remembers.
As a Corporal in the U.S. Army, Chuck always dreamed of learning to fly, but never got the opportunity. On April 6, at the age of 83, Chuck finally got his chance to sit in the open cockpit of a Stearman biplane. “It was great,” Chuck says of the experience. “When you’re up there, you can’t stop looking all over the place.”
Mary knew as a young girl that she wanted to pilot planes, but was told “Girls don’t fly.” At the age of 45, Mary got her pilot’s license and her first Cessna. She and her co-pilot husband Vince spent the next 30 years flying across the Southwest. Recently, she had a chance to get back up in the air.
Vince’s love of flying led him to enlist in the Army. During WWII, he served as part of a bomber crew flying over Japan. One of Vince’s jobs was to pull the pins to release the bombs. Vince continued flying with his wife Mary after the war. It was an honor to invite Vince back in the co-pilot’s seat for our Dream Flights event.
As a serviceman in the Army, George was stationed in France during the Berlin crisis following WWII. After leaving the Army, he became an elementary school teacher and married Michaeline, who worked for Boeing. George dedicated his Dream Flight to his beautiful wife, who is living with Alzheimer’s.
A retired world history teacher for junior high school students, Betty was married to an Air Force pilot and loved to hear his stories of flying. Betty has always been a traveler at heart and loves to fly whenever she gets the chance. So she couldn’t pass up the chance to fly on a vintage biplane.
A former elementary and middle school teacher, Linda has traveled around the world in search of adventure. Her late husband served in the army during WWII, and she knew he would have loved to participate in the Dream Flights event. She’s thrilled to take to the skies in honor of his memory.
When asked if he’d like to take a spin in a WWII-era restored plane, Wes smiled and said, “That sounds like fun!” A former Coast Guard Private, Wes is used to traveling on
the water. But he certainly enjoyed flying high above the clouds for a change of scenery.
After graduating from college, Mac went into active military duty as a Naval aviator. Serving as a Navy Lieutenant, Mac led his own squadron while stationed in California. Following his service, he went to work for Douglas Aircraft. With all his aviation experience, he felt right at home in the clouds.
Lois and her husband designed and built their own home in Anaheim, so she knows there’s nothing you can’t do if you put your mind to it. When asked if she wanted to fly a vintage plane, Lois thought of her mom — a former beauty queen who once got to take a ride in a biplane. Lois jumped at the chance to follow in her mother’s footsteps.
- “The Orange County Register: A flight to remember: Foundation returns veterans to the skies over Orange County”
- “The American Legion: O.C. honors eight adventurous seniors/WWII vets to fly in vintage biplane”
- “NBC4 Los Angeles: Vintage Plane ‘Dream Flights’ Bring Back Memories for WWII Vets”
To see the other fun things our community members are up to, visit us on Facebook!