Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee
No 412 squadron, RCAF
Killed 11 December 1941
My father died last night. We kept vigil as he drew his last breaths. The poem above is one he chose several years ago to be read at his memorial service.
He loved to hike and backpack. The year he was 17, he and some of his buddies went hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park and that was the beginning of his love affair with that area. In 1960, we moved to Colorado and from that time on we spent many many days hiking and camping in that area as he showed us the mountains we loved. We climbed Longs Peak, Meeker, Mt. Ida, Chief’s Head, the Twin Sisters, and many many more. We walked across the Grand Canyon and back, explored Zion and Bryce Canyons, spent weeks in Canyonlands, visited Arches National Monument and hiked to every arch. These are just a few of the expeditions we went on.
Our parents loaded us up in a truck with a camper my dad built for it and hauled us all the way across the country on a summer-long trip when my dad went to an antenna conference in Maine. We visited almost every historical site on the East Coast on that trip, not to mention many of the National Parks and Monuments that are in the Northern tier of states.
Daddy travelled a lot when I was young, because he designed and tested VLF antennas for the Navy. The one in Exmouth Australia, on the Northwest Cape, he designed and when it was built spent several months trouble shooting. He also was responsible for the design of the one installed in Norway. There are lots more, but when I was a kid he used to travel all over the world to the VLF antenna stations the Navy operated for the purposes of communicating with submarines.
He loved airplanes, and could remember the hoopla surrounding Lindbergh’s grand tour around the country after his triumphant return from the trip across the Atlantic. He wanted to live to see what would be done to celebrate the 100th anniversary of that event. He constructed dozens of model airplanes, some from kits and some from the plans, carving the pieces. He constructed an ultralight aircraft and used to fly it around the Niangua River area on calm mornings. In his hangar at this exact second are the wings and tail structure of another airplane he was constructing: a flyable ultralight 85% scale model of the Albatross D3 WWI flying machine.
On his eightieth birthday we threw a surprise party for him. My brother came from Connecticut and my older sister from Texas. He had no idea they were doing this. We had a family dinner party for him at our house and gave him a Day Clock. It was grand.
In 2008 my brother and his wife joined my Dad and me in Colorado for a backpacking vacation. This was taken on that trip.
He was never the most easy person to get along with, being stubborn and opinionated. He would shout you down if you engaged in an argument with him, and he “knew” he was always right. Nevertheless, I believe he loved us very much.
When he and my mother conceived children (always planned, by the way), they committed to providing us with a college degree when the time came. They began saving for these commitments the day we were born, and so I went to college on a full scholarship courtesy of my parents’ frugality and commitment to higher education. For this I will always be grateful.
His decline in his last illness was swift and inevitable. I know he is visiting with his old climbing buddies right this minute, and it makes me happy to know this even though I will miss my daddy very much.