Cheryl – My wife and immediate supervisor!

Cheryl – My wife and immediate supervisor!
Cheryl – My wife and immediate supervisor!

Cheryl Ann Lotz became Cheryl Walker the eighth of April, 1971.  Through circumstances she moved up in stature to becoming my immediate supervisor although I am bewildered as to the date of occurrence?

Cheryl is not only my present wife, she is my second wife.   I was married a short while to Carolyn Turner.  Cheryl and I remain friends with Carolyn.  With Cheryl it is as both friend and colleague.

Simply put, a couple of years after marrying, Carolyn and I decided to call it quits and stay friends.  She had been an elementary school teacher.  Needless to say I was surprised one day when she walked into the Phoenix crew room dressed in a Frontier stewardess uniform!

Frontier recognized her classroom skills and put her to work in the training department.   One day I needed to speak with Cheryl who was attending recurrent ground school.

I knocked on the classroom door.  “Yes,” asked the stewardess answering the door?  I said, “Please tell my ex-wife that I need to speak with my present wife.”  With a small airline like Frontier, it wasn’t long before that made the rounds!

Carolyn went on to marry another Frontier pilot, Terry Jackson.  They are still together living the good life of retired airline couples at Van Aire, an airport residential place north of Denver.   A number of other Frontier families live and fly there.

Cheryl and I began our life together by going to war!  This part of Cheryl’s and my story is under another title herein called the Asian Air Adventure taken from Cheryl’s diary in 1971-1972.  Another, Cambodian Air Adventure spells out more of our adventurous beginning.   We literally celebrated our first anniversary during a rocket attack on the city of Phnom Penh.

PRESTON

Our son, Preston, arrived December 30th, 1972.   We had just returned from overseas duty with Air-America (called Tri9 in Cambodia).   Cheryl changed her Frontier Leave-Of-Absence to a Maternity Leave.  We sure were proud and Preston truly was a joy.   His story, from my perspective, will follow.

Other than the aforementioned, this is all about Cheryl and the Lotz Bunch.  Cheryl’s story is interesting and amazing.

MOM ISMAN

Cheryl grew up as the youngest of the nine children brought into this world by Howard and Lilian Lotz.   Had Howard not passed early from a heart attack at forty-five, she may have been in the middle of eighteen.   Howard, an only child wanted a large family.  Lilian not so much so.   It is sad that he didn’t live to see  his family grow and prosper.

Each of the Lotz children were terrific as were their spouses.   Of all of them, still my second favorite was their mother. Cheryl has maintained top billing as my all-time favorite for over four and a half decades so far.

Somehow “Mom” Isman and I really hit it off and became great friends.  Many years had passed when I had the high honor of speaking at her funeral. Mom Isman made it to eighty-nine.  She was ready for the next step whatever it might be.

Making it even more surprising that we were so close was that Lillian was a devout Catholic.  I was the heathen of the family. Still, “Mom Isman” liked risqué jokes although she had a very difficult time getting all the way thru telling one.   Nearing the punch-line she would get tickled. Often-times, Mom was so full of laughter, she was unable to finish the joke!

She went from risqué reducing the blush factor to not much as her years accumulated.   Towards her last few years, she would stop telling jokes but listen to them and chuckle.  Close to the end she no longer wanted to listen to anything risqué.  I figured that her devout faith was taking ahold and that she was hedging her bets some!

Looking back I remember an amazing woman who raised all those children alone and everyone of them became a credit to American society.  Especially, Cheryl.

At a time when our son could have possibly been influenced in a negative way, Cheryl was a stay-at-home mom.   Preston was never a “latch-key kid.”

Of course, as luck has always played a part, we had great neighbors everywhere we lived.   At first we had a town house in Littleton with terrific neighbors.  Then we moved to Aurora and found great neighbors there.  We’ve been pretty lucky all-round and still are.   Most of our neighbors have become long-time friends.

At Cheryl’s surprise sixty-fifth birthday bash several former neighbors flew in from Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah to help her celebrate this milestone.  Former neighbors perhaps, never former friends.  Family flew in from Massachusetts and California.  It was a grand occasion.

Below:  the entertainment of Ed Newberg and Teense Willford

Ed is famous for his singing and flying.  He’s a member of the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame.  Mostly, he’s famous for marrying Connie.

Teense is famous for the exploding home brew incident in Walker Bunch – Part I.   His immediate supervisor is Sandy.

To know Cheryl is to know why we never had a moments concern about Preston.  We had great neighbors/friends who were a positive influence on him. Cheryl has a special way about her that draws folks her way.

When Preston was small, often his Aunt Donna and Aunt Helen would take care of him when Cheryl and I were both away on a flight. We seemed to easily coordinate our trips to make sure one of us was usually home.

Joe Davis is my longest ever friend and best male friend.  Read about Joe in Walker Bunch – Part One.  Cheryl tops even Joe.  She IS my BEST friend.  “Miss C” is the wind beneath my wings!   I can not imagine life without her.

All of our married life she has been there.   If you read the story about our South East Asian War Games Adventure, you will see where, from the get-go, “if you go, I go!”  …and she has persisted with this value!

She must have worked out the right formula in child raising. I keep telling her to write a book on just that.  She resists, but insists I write one!

From eighteen months until he was six Preston was sickly.  We discovered his severe and immediate allergic reaction to animals when I sat him on a horse.   Preston overcame severe asthma to become his high school and college MVP.   He excelled and was awarded both academic and athletic scholarships.

Much of the credit goes to Dr. Jerome Buckley, a well known immunology and pulmonary specialist in Aurora, Colorado. Dr. Buckley convinced Preston to swim.  We had an olympic sized pool next to our home in Aurora.  Preston was soon swimming the length of the pool.  Soon after that he swam 100 pool-lengths and being awarded one dollar per lap for the effort.  The money was for a community fund raising effort. He was just six years old!

Mostly, Preston won by overcoming his breathing problems albeit not completely.  However, they were and are manageable. He developed rapidly and became one of the best athletes in the area.   He would maintain that position throughout his competitive sports years.

Given the grief I subjected my parents to, I know they must have been amazed at what a great kid Preston was.   Not a moments trouble while I was just the opposite.   Preston’s only downside is that he acquired a tendency towards procrastination.   He would wait until the last possible moment to get his assignments done.   Even without our pushing, he would accomplish the mission.

My parents must have really puzzled over our not experiencing the “terrible twos” or the “teenage terrors.”  Nope!  All thru school and college Preston was one terrific son, grandson, and great-grandson.

One thing Cheryl did was not to allow him to watch TV or play a game until his homework was finished.   His few chores had to be completed before he could play or, later, ride his ATV thru the mountain trails on our Trout Ranch near Pine, Colorado.

It was at the Walker & Walker Trout Ranch that our family increased in numbers.  First, my aunt Lenora died and we became worried about uncle Jack (the Uncle Barnsmell in the Prologue).

That was the impetuous for our moving from Aurora to Pine, Colorado.   We built a two bedroom guest house next to the ranch house and moved Uncle Barnsmell from Cheyenne. We hired a couple to help with the ranch.

SCAMP

The young couple raised registered English Setters.  They gave Preston a puppy, the runt of the litter.  Preston named him “Scamp.”

Scamp was such a delight.  He never barked or tried to lick.   He’d nuzzle up to you and wag his tail.  Smart, he was quick to pick up commands.

Scamp was a setter and bred to hunt.   I was was absolutely disappointed discovering that Scamp was a lousy hunting dog.  A clap of thunder or the bark of a gun would have him immediately between your legs shaking.   He made up for his lack of hunting prowess by being perfectly wonderful otherwise.

OUR TWO PUPS

One day Scamp bounded up the stairs to the porch with a couple of lengths of tail bone protruding!  Off to the vet who clipped the bones off and sewed up his tail.   No more show-dog potential now.

We never knew for sure, but I figured Scamp had a close run-in with a wild cat or, perhaps, a lion.   Our place sat eighty two hundred feet above sea level.   We were in an area of a lot of wildlife activity.

If someone came by Scamp would give them a wag of what was left of his tail, then he’d sit in front of where they stood and raise his right paw to shake.  We could put a piece of meat on his nose and he’d sit there all day until you nodded your head then ol’ Scamp tossed it up before catching it in his mouth.

 

SAM

Less than a year after we moved to the mountains, we had a wild feral tabby cat that hunted in the pasture next to our house.  If we were anywhere close off that cat would go hightailin’ it into the woods.

I left on a four-day Frontier flight one day and when I returned home, I climbed up the stairs to the porch.  There was Scamp laying in the afternoon sun.   Curled up with Scamp was the feral cat!  WHAT?

Of course my first question to Cheryl was, “What is the story” as I pointed to the two on the porch.  Cheryl explained that Preston had coaxed the cat with soft speech and some food. Eventually, the cat Preston named “Sam” for Samantha, adopted everyone including Scamp!

Scamp was still puppyish.  Right away Sam was the boss. She taught Scamp, our heretofore failure as a hunting dog, to hunt!  It was fun watching the two of them getting a gopher or vole trapped under a car or tractor.  They would coordinate their movements and, every single time, one or the other would nail the rodent.

We enjoyed the wildlife at the ranch.  We had a small lake and three ponds full of trout as well as Elk Creek flowing thru our place.  Some deer and a herd of forty elk migrated thru the ranch twice a year.  Majestic!  We even had a runaway buffalo and a bear that killed a neighbors donkey in our pasture.  Wildcats, lions, and porcupines abounded.

Scamp tried to make friends with a porcupine.  Off to the vet!  Cheryl said “well maybe he’s learned his lesson to stay away from porcupines!”  The vet disagreed.  The vet was right, we were back a couple of years later with Scamp’s mouth full of needles.

The trout ranch was a great place for Preston and his pal Scamp to roam the surrounding hills running or riding on his ATV.  Always, Scamp was Preston’s shadow.

One day, I was teaching Scamp to “heel.”  Undaunted, Sam came along to keep us company.  The buffalo grass was tall so that Sam’s head and tail were all that was visible.  She hopped up on the bottom rail of our horse fence.

I happened to look up and saw a Great Horned Owl on the top of a telephone pole.  Immediately, I considered the owl trying for Sam but the cat was much too big for the owl.  In fact, Sam was very large for a domestic cat.

About then Sam hopped off the fence and was a few feet ahead of us with just it’s head and tail showing thru the tall buffalo grass.  I happened to glance up at the owl as it hopped off the telephone pole.

I was totally enamored with seeing the owl, sans wings, hopping off the pole.  Then, suddenly, out came those wings and, were I not mesmerized, I could have grabbed the owl sliding by my right side when, just as suddenly, it’s talons reached out and grabbed Sam.

Sam shrieked, the owl let out a screech discovering the size of it’s prize and let loose of Sam then it flew off into the forest. Sam lit a shuck.

We didn’t see hide nor hair of Sam for hours before she finally showed up.  A day or two later Cheryl called my attention to Sam’s laboring condition out on the porch.   She was having breathing trouble and panting.  I scooped Sam into a cardboard box.  Off to the vet again.

This trip to the vet met with a sad ending.  Apparently, the sharp talons of the owl grievously injured Sam internally.  The vet gave us no hope even with surgery.  We said “goodby” to this special member of our family.

Our family of six was down to four with Uncle Jack and Sam now Gone West.  Our memories of them remain vivid.

A few months following Frontier’s demise, we sold our beautiful mountain home and headed for Arizona.  I wanted to stay but was out voted.  Both Cheryl and Preston were thru with the snow and cold.   Scamp was ambivalent.

We found a nice home in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Our move looked like the Clampett’s with Cheryl driving my old Ford pickup with a bright blue tarp over the top pulling a trailer with a bright orange tarp covering a load of out meager belongings.  I drove a rented two-ton truck pulling another trailer similarly loaded and decorated with protective covering.

Leaving in the wee hours before dawn,  we started out.  Just a few curves down the mountain I saw Cheryl pull over and stop.

I had neglected to do some preliminary work with her on handling a loaded trailer.  Simply, this was the first time she’d attempted this.   Cheryl exclaimed, “I CAN’T DO THIS!”

After she settled down and realized that not only could she, she would.  Soon, her confidence emerged and off we went on still another BnC adventure.

We were the recipients of numerous double-takes as we headed down Highway 285 to our new life in Arizona.  At one point we lost contact.

We’d been together long enough that our thoughts intertwined.   I let my mother know that I was planning on staying at the hotel in Albuquerque where we spent our second married night in 1971.  Having called my Mom herself, Cheryl pulled in shortly after I did.

Preston, out for football at Saguaro High School, stayed with my parents as Cheryl and I worked our way thru the financial nightmare of selling the ranch along with dissolving our partnership in Alta Excavating and Rocky Mountain Excavators.  Along with all that, we had to work things out with several banks to get rid of our note liabilities.

We were determined not to file bankruptcy as many of our fellow Frontier folks were forced into doing.  Again, it was Cheryl’s constant cheerleading, “We can do this!”

In spite of all this nightmarish goings on, the really tough part was knowing that our beloved Frontier Airlines was now history.   A grand history it is, but forever gone from the scene. The new Frontier is not related other than by name.

The next few years were some of our best.  Seeing our son grow and excel in sports and scholarship remains something we’d love turning the clock back on.

The Marshall & Gary Show

The three of us enjoyed western history.  We three enrolled in some courses at Scottsdale Community College.  The two professors were terrific.  Gary Schaffer specialized on Southwest Indian Culture.  Marshall Trimble, the Official Arizona State Historian, taught Arizona and Southwest History.  We even took a ten day road trip with our class all over Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico.

Marsh and I are ΑΤΩ fraternity brothers and, for a time, had shared an apartment with Marsh’s brother Danny during our latter ASU days.  Our long association made those Southwest Studies classes and trip even more delightful.

Gary is retired and living in New Mexico.  Marshall retired although he sorta quit retirement to continue his quest to “learn us folks” Arizona history.  He has published more than twenty two books now!

It is a tie between Cheryl and Marshall as to who’s influence pushed me to write.  Actually, Cheryl edges Marsh out.

Marshall is one of the best entertainers I know.  I was likely his first goupie when his group The Gin Mill Three played in Tempe during our stint at ASU.   We remain pals and will until one of us heads west.

Preston ended up with a dozen hours of college credit before his high school graduation.  At this point, Cheryl decided to take a few more classes.  Boy Howdy did she!

Cheryl ended up taking more classes while working in the registrar’s office at Scottsdale Community College.   Next thing I knew she’ earned an associates degree with honors.   It was obvious she was enjoying school!

Cheryl went on to ASU while Preston was away at Villanova University.   Both did well.   OK, Preston did better at football perhaps, but his Mom kicked-butt scholastically!

Cheryl graduated from ASU with a bachelors degree Summa Cum Laude!  She earned the 1996 Outstanding Graduate honor and gave both the Convocation Address AND the Commencement Address as the top of forty-six thousand students then enrolled at Arizona State University.

Armed with another scholarship, she earned her Masters Degree in Social Work. It was around this time I became aware that her title as my wife was changing to “Immediate Supervisor!”

With her success, there was a downside!  Cheryl became aware of how much smarter she was than I was.  “Proof in the Pudding!” …as they say!

With both Cheryl and our son, I was the ultimate winner.   During the demise of our once great little airline, Frontier, I told Preston that, if he was going to college, he would have to figure a way to make it on his own thru scholarship.   I mentioned that athletic scholarships, percentage-wise, are not as secure as academic ones.   He achieved both!  Did I mention how lucky I’ve been?

Above:  Preston as a University of Villanova linebacker and linebacker coach with Glendale Community College.

Both Cheryl and Preston were successful in their academic endeavors and it didn’t cost me a dime!   It was like the Johnny Cash song One Piece at a Time that my buddy, Ed Newberg, signs so well.

Cheryl went on to Towne Meadows Elementary as the school counselor.   Soon, she became hugely popular with both the students and faculty.  Her principal asked her during the interview if they could count on her staying a long time.  Cheryl assured her that she would.

At the time, I was the manager of Airbus training at America West Airlines.   It was a great job.   My immediate supervisor, Jim Tucker, was the best “boss” I ever had.   The director of training, Roger Parrish, was a flying buddy.  The pay was good.  I had no plans on making any changes.

Below: our A.S.S.H.O.L.E.S.* group  L-R: Billy Walker, Bob Guayante, Ken Bruno, Roger Parrish, Joe Hoodak, and Jim Tucker.

I was the manager of America West’s Airbus Training, Bob was manager of the B-757, Ken was manager of the B-737 program, Roger had been Director of Training, Joe Hoodak managed the technical pubs, Jim was Training Programs Manager.

*It was Jim who came up with the unusual acronym which stood for “Ancient Secret Sacred Honorable Order of Learned  Ex-Supervisors!”  Missing from the photo below are Dee Rush and Tyler Waddell.  Gone West and greatly missed are Jim Tucker and Ken Bruno both departed all too soon.

I read an article in the Aviation Week & Space Digest that told of a new airline starting up in New York and that the airline was considering the Airbus A-320 as their fleet choice.   Curious, I sent an e-mail to the one listed in the article.

A fellow named David Neeleman sent me a return e-mail asking me to send them a resumé.   Still curious, I sent my resumé.

Billy – David Neeleman – Cheryl

I then received several calls asking if I would entertain an interview.  I agreed to this and had a delightful lunch with Ann Rhoades, VP People at “New Air.”  It went well, then Captain Al Spain and a few other’s came out for a visit.  One, Usto Schultz, a former FAA fellow, wanted to see my log books.  I replied,”I don’t have any!”  “What?” “How can you have the ratings and no log books?” asked Usto.

I told Usto about a move from SLC to DEN, after Cheryl and I returned from our SE Asia War Games adventure.  Mayflower Moving and Storage had lost my log books.  Worse, they lost my pioneer aviator father’s log books along with other less important belongings!

I said, “I do have a couple of file boxes full of log sheets from my days flying for Frontier along with some from America West.”  Usto just looked at those file boxes and shook his head.   He never opened them up.

He must have figured that in all those years, I was fifty eight then, that I had the minimum time required.  I did have the proper FAA certification and a current Class I medical.   I was good to go!

Yet, I was not sure if I wanted to gamble the sure thing I had at AWA with the unknown of a new start-up airline. I agonized over the question.   Cheryl, as she always did, said, “Do what you think best!”

I called my buddy, Dave Kaplan.  Dave was the pal who coaxed me into becoming an airline pilot.  He thought the offer from “New Air” had merit, but knew a well known and respected analyst, Joe Lorenzo, and would call him.

Anticipating my next question, Dave said, “Joe is not related to Frank Lorenzo!”  That Lorenzo became a horrible nemesis to airline employees along with being a huge factor in the Frontier Demise.

The dichotomy here was that, after United created our disastrous demise, it was Frank Lorenzo who saved us at least to the point where all employees were able to go with Continental mostly in their former Frontier positions.   It was called The Job Preservation Liquidation and Settlement Agreement.  It was not pretty. I chose to go with America West Airlines instead.

Joe had worked with David Neeleman in the past.  David had started Morris Air that was a success and later merged with Southwest Airlines.  David was a founder of the Canadian airline Westair.  Following a five-year no competition clause in his sale of Morris Air, David raised a ton of money ($162,000,000.00), a record amount.   David formulated a new business plan for an airline that for now would be called “New Air.”

David soon had Joe Lorenzo on the phone with me in a three-way conversation. Immediately, Joe said, “Billy, Dave tells me you have an opportunity to go with New Air.”  I answered in the affirmative.  Joe then said, “Hang up, call them and accept the offer. Then call me back.  I can spend the rest of the day telling you just how smart your move was!”  WOW! was my thought.

I called some of the former Frontier pilots who were flying in Guam with Continental where Al Spain had been VP Ops. I kept hearing, “Al, The Pilots Pal!” Everyone liked Al Spain and so would I.

On the fifth day of September 1999 I became part of the start-up team of what became JetBlue Airways.   After flying some initial proving runs, I became the senior line captain, and the first check-airman.  For a while, I was the only examiner and test pilot.   Cheryl and I treasure our JetBlue experience.

I treasure even more Cheryl’s attitude.  “If you are going, I am going!”  She called the principal at Towne Meadows and explained.   Rather than being upset, the school organized a retirement party for Cheryl as though she’d been there forty years instead of just three months.   THREE MONTHS!  That, friends, is a very fast career path!

In addition to supervising me, she is a volunteer in several civic areas along with her involvement in P.E.O. a women’s philanthropic organization.  She has a group she plays golf with.  Another group is called “Games Day.”  She helps out at Airbus Arizona where I fly.  Mostly, she stays busy supervising me.

Her golf group is interesting.  These ladies thoroughly enjoy the game of golf and their social interaction.   AND they DO NOT keep score!

She enjoys her bridge group, something called “Bunko,” and the Sky Harbor Auxiliary.  The latter being a group of former stewardess/flight attendants.

Cheryl also does volunteer work to help out at Airbase Arizona, the largest wing of the Commemorative Air Force. We both continually remark to each other that we’ve been busier retired than we ever were while.  Cheryl’s has been a life well lived.

We moved from Colorado to Scottsdale, Arizona in 1987. From Scottsdale to Ahwatukee, a suburb of Phoenix, in 1994 and to our present home in 2003.  No one is behind us as we back up to South Mountain Park, a preserve that is the largest city park in the country some seventeen miles long with miles and miles of desert trails.   Our back gate opens up to a paradise of desert beauty where, close by, Spanish conquistador Fray Marcos de Niza left his personal inscription in 1549.  A few hundred yards further the ancient Hohokam Indians inscribed rock formations with what is now known as petroglyphs.

Nightly, we hear the mournful cry of the coyote, the occasional “hoot” of the great horned owls nesting near by.  We see many different species of desert wild life in early dawn and daylight hours.

We’ve seen raccoons, rattlesnakes, roadrunners, and javalena (piccary).  One morning, just prior to daylight I had just awakened for an early morning flight when I saw the motion light illuminate.  Pushing back the curtain I saw a very large bobcat calmly strolling on our pool’s cool-deck.

The motion light didn’t bother the wildcat that soon hopped up on the chase lounge next to the fence.  With it’s front paws on the upright back of the lounge, he looked left then right, as though he was checking for traffic, then hopped over the fence into the still blackened night.

Greater Roadrunner

Collard Lizzard

Night Blooming Cactus

Some scoundrel actually stole the entire Night Blooming Cactus plant from just outside our back fence!  Yup, some bottom feeders will steal anything not attached and, apparently, somethings that are!

Javalena or Peccary

Mountain lion escaping hunting dogs in the Arizona desert

Javalena feeding outside our back fence.                                                                                                                                              

                     They are steeling the seeds we benevolently left for the desert quail who visit us by the hundreds daily.

The bobcat sighting was a singular event.  We have not seen another.  Neighbors have reported seeing bobcats and even one report of a mountain lion.  There is no deer population near by.  Likely the lion was a transient.

We enjoy driving trips around our great country and have several spots yet to see on our radar.   We have yet to travel thru the deep south and the Wyoming trout streams beckon. …and Cheryl has more work left to correct the flaws in my writing and my character.  Many roads and airways remain left for our travels.