Friday, April 19, 2013

A Good Friend Earns Great Recognition

One of my biggest thrills in life is seeing a friend succeed; it doesn’t matter at what.  Some people want to help society, others want to start and build a successful business, a few merely dream of being a pilot, and others just want to do what is right.  Of course, when they start after something most people are more specific.  For instance, a pilot may say he/she wants to fly for Delta.  Yet in the end, whatever the details were, when you boil it down, they wanted to be a pilot.  And, if they made it I am happy for them.
I just realized I need to back track.  Through the years I have refined, over and over again, who I would consider a friend, what makes a friend, and how friends are made.  It seems to me most people start out being friends with anyone who likes them.  Then one by one, as they peel off or are dropped from the formation, a core group is revealed.  This method of friendship always seemed like wasted effort to me.
Of course, if you prescribe to my method of friendship, you will never host a Christmas party overflowing with people, your birthday will go almost unacknowledged, and when you die the chances are pretty good few would notice unless you passed away in their presence.  And yes, I realize to many people that sounds horrible, or maybe like a sob story, but it is not.  Real friends are rare and therefore, by definition, exist is limited numbers.  If three devastated people show up to your funeral you had more true friends than most.
So, why all the talk about friends?
Well, the other day Ginger walked into the house with an armful of mail.  Among the items were plenty of junk mail, a Northern Tool catalog, the latest edition of “The Aviation Historian”, 33 pieces of mail from various aviation groups trying to get one or both of us to re-join (exaggeration alert; it was 32 pieces), and a fancy square envelope entirely out of place in our home.  That last one is the one she opened first.
Looking it over for a moment, then looking at me as if there was yet another thing I hadn’t told her about, she said, “Did you know Ron (Alexander) is being inducted to the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame”?  Fortunately, I had been away for a while and it was news to me.  “No. Why?” I said with perfect husband brevity.  To which she responded, “Well, he is and we got an invitation to the event”.  Like I said, it was completely out of place in our home.
How in the world we ended up deserving an invitation to Ron’s big day is beyond me.
Years ago, when I first talked to Ron, he had called to say hello.  Admittedly, although I don’t think he knows this, I was very stand-offish and when I hung up we questioned his intentions.  Living aviation has taught us this.  Stay with this sport long enough and you’ll understand why we don't trust everyone who claims to love it.  Sure, Ron’s name was well known in aviation circles but we've also learned popularity is no measure of a man.  Therefore, Ron and I spoke about a few things and hung up.
A few weeks later we spoke again and exchange emails about big ideas for aviation.  Then the next time I heard from Ron he asked me to fly one of his planes to Oshkosh.  Now although that may seem to most like the offer of a true friend, you have to understand that at the time I was flying rare old planes around the country for people I hadn’t even met; to me it was just another ferry job.
When I arrived at Ron’s, my new friend Dr. John Burson was driving.  Earlier in the day, I had delivered a Canadian Tiger Moth to Dr. Burson and since he wasn’t too far from Ron’s, it worked out well for everyone.  Ron showed us around, John left, and Ron and I began to discuss the future of aviation.  When the day was over, Ron was like family.
What I’ve learned about our friend since that day is that he has been a benefit to both society and aviation, started and built several successful businesses, done some amazing things as a pilot, and always made it a point to do what is right.  None of us are saints, but when it comes to being a great all around person, Ron ranks toward the top of the list.  Put simply, he's one of the good people in aviation in an age when being one of the good people is extremely rare.
Easily I could go on about Ron’s life in the air and all the reasons (several pages worth) he's being inducted.  Instead, I am going to keep it short by saying only one additional thing.  When someone gets recognition like this, many people are inclined to express the notion “that person deserves it”.   In Ron’s case I can only say “he earned it”.
Congratulations Ron.  Ginger and I both are extremely happy for you.
Click here to see the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame website.
(Note: Since this was published, Ron has had his big day.  Congratulations again.)

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