Leonard Ralph Wetz
1917 - 2011
My grandfather passed away on Friday. We consider it something of a blessing. He'd suffered ill health for years and now is at rest. At 93 years old, he lived a good, long life.
Miles and circumstances separated us from a close relationship. I probably only saw him once every year or so. But he was my grandfather, and I admired him from afar. He was an extremely intelligent man; a Mensa member and engineer with a great logical mind. That mechanical aptitude inspired him to learn to fly, and in turn, lead to my fondest memory of him: flying aboard his plane.
I was young, maybe five years old, when Gramps took me up in his prop plane. It was a heady experience. There I was, a young, powerless girl in the world, suddenly kneeling in the backseat of a plane so that I could look out the window at the miniaturized landscape below. Suddenly I wasn't so small; I was on top of the world! The flight was noisy and exhilarating. I loved seeing the world from this vantage point and didn't experience one bit of fear. Why would I have? My grandfather was flying the plane and in my mind, he was a genius. He knew what he was doing.
I've loved flying ever since. Apparently, so did he. In his last days of waning lucidity, he rambled on about flight towers in front of him. His hands made the motions of clutching gear shifts and checking equipment. He'd soared back in time to his days in the cockpit. It had been a long time since he'd flown. I'm glad his mind took him on one more whirl through the air before he was gone.