The Love of My Life has held that position since 1970. On a recent romantic evening, at Lon’s at Hermosa Inn, sipping a nice Cabernet at 5:56 PM, April 8, 2021, we re-upped our contract and are working on our second century t’gether! Come April 8, 2023 we’ll have just 98 to go! For me, it’ll be hard to out do the first half century. WOW! What a ride it’s been!
It was a bright sunny day, in 1970, that I drove from my condo to the SLC airport. I had a date with one of the Frontier stewardess’ arriving shortly as a member of the 727 layover crew from Dallas.
The Boeing 727 operated with a cabin crew of three. All three were walking down the concourse when I intercepted them. The stew I was dating introduced me to the other two.
The taller one in the middle was haughty! But, Boy Howdy, did my radar start beeping!
I do not recall the name of the girl I was dating. She and I left figuring to spend the day together. I remember she was learning to fly. We had that in common. The other two headed for the crew bus to take them to the hotel.
Back then I absolutely could not remember names. So, I called all the girls “Punkin'”…
The girl I was with said she wasn’t feeling well. We decided to call it a day and I took her back to the hotel. The tall haughty stew I’d just met happened to be in the lobby. I said, “Hey Punkin’ How’d you like to go flying?”
She thought for a second or two and said, “Sure, I’d like that!” I had planned on taking a friend of mine from SLC to his ranch in SW Wyoming, a fairly short flight.
1970 Mooney M-22 “Mustang”
Off we went! My friend, another pilot in his own right, sitting in the right seat with the girl who would become TLOML sitting in the right rear seat.
We lifted off the runway and began climbing, I raised the landing gear and looked back to see how the girl was doing. She was totally zonked out! Sound asleep! Mouth open and, perhaps, even snoring! Possibly a tiny bit of drool from the corner of her mouth! Now I’m not saying this for a fact, but it is just possible… And that is the way it was in the car or airplane the first twenty years. Gear up, girl asleep!
Cheryl Ann Lotz was born November 9, 1947 in Mexico, Missouri. I never knew her father. Nor does Cheryl remember him. Sad! Apparently, he was a hellofafella!
Her father, Howard Lotz, died from a massive heart attack May 22, 1949. Cheryl was just seventeen months old. Howard was just 45…
One pretty summer day Cheryl and I were driving in the mountains SW of Denver. We discovered a nifty trout fishery at Schaeffer’s Crossing on Elk Creek SW of Denver. A few people were fishing when we stopped in. I asked one of the fishermen, “OK to fish here?” “Sure,” he replied.
I retrieved my flyrod and vest from the trunk along with my float tube. Into the small lake I waded and was having a ball catching trout. Normally, I’m a catch-and-release fly-fisherman. But, we had thoughts of a fish-fry.
Then a voice behind me said, “Let me know when you’re ready and I’ll check you out!” “Check me out?” I thought. What’s that about? I turned around and clambered out of the lake to meet the owner.
Boy Howdy! He wasn’t kidding! He charged me by the inch for these nice 1 1/2 to 2lb Rainbows. Fortunately, I was apparently the only one catching and, since, I had a hefty bill facing me, I offered to sell, at cost, some of the trout. “WHEW!”
I visited some with owner Paul Scakkler (SP) and commented on what a beautiful place he had and to let me know if he ever decided to sell. He replied that just that past evening, he and his wife decided to sell. Just like that we agreed on a price, including the senior water rights to Elk Creek, and shook hands. I gave him a few shekels earnest money and a few days later we were moving Uncle Jack into his new digs.
Our DamWest home sold in a nano-second. We took our furniture and some great memories and headed up into the Rocky Mountains just southwest of Denver.
We sold Uncle Jack’s home in Cheyenne and coaxed my Uncle, Gib Nesbitt, into building a two-bedroom guest house for Uncle Jack. Gib was a WWII flight instructor and maintained his currency with several airplanes. Professionally, he was Sr. VP at Denver Woods Products and did a lot of contractor work. We received the “family discount!”
The ranch house was big and roomy. We ended up with a six-car garage and a huge sun deck overlooking Elk Creek, the ponds & lake.
Below: Uncle Barnsmell with his kid brother, my Dad, Pic Walker. Ol’ Unc loved that gate! But, much to my chagrin, he never fished. Not once! He was 79 when he passed from prostate cancer.
Following the Frontier demise via merger with Continental in 1986, we moved to Arizona a year later. I was with the Airline Pilots Association for two years after the end of Frontier. It was during this time we moved to Arizona.
Cheryl & Preston announced, “We are moving to Arizona. If you want to live with us, that’s where we’ll be!” We moved!
There was a ten year period when we owned and operated the Val Vista Lakes balloon. We had a lot of fun doing that and the commercial side pretty much paid for the hobby part. We were able to share the ballooning experience with a goodly number of friends and relatives.
Actually, it was my sister, MM, who got us interested in balloon flying. She arranged it and Bill Cutter took took me for a flight. That’s Bill & his ballon above. Then she helped me locate a nice Tracy Barnes manufactured balloon and trailer. Coincidentally, the trailer matched our Chevy van. We were set owning the Val Vista Lakes Balloon Company. My sister’s close friend, Fred Ferguson, taught me how to fly it.
Unicorn Balloon Company owner, Fred Gorrell, was a longtime balloonist and served as the FAA Designated Examiner. He administered my check-ride and, presto, I was an FAA certified Commercial Balloonist. His son, Eric, pal Gordon Johnson, and my mentor, Ralph Johnson, became my first passengers. It would become a memorable decade of fun. We still attend the reunions of the Arizona ballon bunch.
The only downside to the balloon business was the time of day! A balloonist has to be up between 3 AM and 4 AM to be able to reach the launch site and fly at sunrise – before the heat of the day. There are a few winter months where late afternoon/evening flights are doable. So, one of the biggest challenges was finding ground crew members. I had two and the price was right! Cheryl and Preston!
The most horrific experience I had, in my long aviation career, was ballooning and I wasn’t even aboard! I taught our son, Preston, to fly the balloon. The earliest a person can solo a balloon is age 14.
Preston was doing very well handling the balloon and I had no concerns with him soloing. We went up early one January morning for a pre-solo flight. It went very well. That afternoon I decided it was time to solo Preston. He would be totally alone in the balloon basket.
The weather was perfect, the winds nearly calm, and several other balloons were launching. A few quick things to mention and he launched right after the other balloons were on their way.
WHAM! Preston had released his tether line and was 15 to 20 feet above us when the wind very suddenly blew 15 to 20 mph! The max wind we ever want to operate a balloon at is 5 mph. And this was his first solo flight! Instant dread!
He sailed away like a spooked goose! Cheryl and I jumped into the van and, with the trailer chasing us, we roared down the desert road heading to a point where we hoped to snag the balloon.
We were there when Preston sailed by. He’d dropped down low enough but was going too fast for us to grab the basket. Off he went again! Off we went again to try for another intercept.
Again we were unable to snag the balloon as it went by. Preston was very calm on the radio. I wasn’t! I had a genuine fear of a tragic outcome. I kept talking to Preston on the radio in hopes it would help. Apparently not! He ended up turning the radio off! We had a base station mounted in the van and a hand held radio in the balloon. “CRAP! He turned off the radio!” I exclaimed to God and anyone listening. Cheryl just looked over at me. I know she’d have been thumbin’ her Rosary if she’d had it along! We both were praying. In between my praying I was cussin’ myself as we sped on!
The next and very last place we could stop him was a dirt road after which the only way to retrieve him would be by helicopter! I was really sweating this and cussin’ myself for allowing our son to be in such a frightening situation.
We roared down the dirt road with the knowledge we likely missed him and that he’d sailed past into the vastness where there was no road access. NW of Cave Creek.
As we sped down the road with a rooster tail of dust following us. Cheryl caught sight of Preston and shouted out pointing. I braked. As we came to a stop there was our son leaning nonchalantly against a fence post. The balloon was laid out and ready to pack-up into the trailer.
He’d done the smart thing and watched the experienced balloonists lower to the point where the basket bottom was scraping the tops of the sagebrush causing the balloon to slow down at which point the balloonist would pull the rope holding the deflation port at the top of the balloon that heat normally holds in place. The balloon then deflates nicely as it did for Preston.
The balloon laid out with the top of the balloon three feet from the fence! Nicely done Son! Very nice! Several of the pro-balloonists saw him deftly handling the balloon and knew it was his solo flight! Several made it a point to compliment him. Me, I was a basket case!
Ok, that was my most frightening experience in aviation. My most humbling experience in aviation was also ballooning. It came at the hands of the TLOML!
We were part of a group of balloons flying in the desert SE of Chandler. During our morning flights, I had seen some favorable winds that promised a nice cruise back towards the Sun Lakes area. It would be just Cheryl and I with Preston chasing us in the van.
At this point Cheryl had never actually flown the balloon. She was an expert crew person and had flown with me several times. As we readied to launch, I asked, “Would you like to fly the balloon?” Same answer she gave me on our first date when I asked if she’d like to go for an airplane ride, “Sure, I’d like that!” She had ridden as a passenger several times, but never handling the burner control.
Cheryl took ahold of the burner control – flames shot upward. Up we went. She found the elevation where the winds would take us in the direction we hoped for. It really was remarkable how adroitly she seemed to naturally know how much to use the burner to maintain altitude.
We were sailing along smoothly when we espied three coyotes chasing a jack rabbit. They were going along at a pretty good clip and I was certain it would be curtains for the jack rabbit. This went on for several minutes. No way would it be possible for that rabbit to elude three coyotes! But, as quick as I thought that, “ZIP!” down an escape hole went Mr. Jack Rabbit! The three coyotes milled around the hole as we sailed on.
Cheryl asked, “Where are we landing?” I said, “Where are you landing?”
We could see the old Chandler Memorial Airport looming into view. No longer a busy airport it is owned by the Akimel O’odham (Pima Indian Tribe) and the Piipaash (Maricopa Indian Tribe) people as part of the Gila River Indian Reservation. During WWII Chandler Memorial was a satellite airport for Williams AFB.
I said, “See that bright yellow “X” on the end of the diagonal runway?” Cheryl acknowledged she did. I said, “Land there!” She did!
I had been flying balloons for several years at that point. I knew it would be impossible for Cheryl, her first time at the ‘controls’ to land that BAB (big assed balloon) on that big yellow ‘X’! No way! But, she did! She landed the ballon like a soft floating feather right smack dab in the very center of the ‘X’! WHAT! Yup, again humility at the hands of TLOML! Shoot, I could not have done that!
Preston found us easy since we were in radio contact the entire flight. We packed up and headed for breakfast. I don’t remember much about that because I was still wondering how the heck she could have made it look so easy. I figured our The Gila and Salt River base and Meridian Hot Air Balloon and Airship Ascension Social Society, Inc., had a new balloon pilot. WRONG!
A few days later I asked, “Sweetness, would you like to fly the balloon tomorrow morning?” She said, “Why?”
I’ve always figured that she thought that her one and only flight went perfectly well, how could she improve on it… Yup! Humbling!
Over the past half-century we’ve shared a goodly number of memorable adventures. A couple were dangerous and very life-threatening. Going to Cambodia during the Vietnam War was not the smartest thing looking back. We both experienced close calls and harrowing moments. See the links listed earlier.
One of our nicest trips was to visit our friend Ronnie. He’d do a better job in his present condition than the train wreck we have in the White House presently!
Many wonderful road trips and as many in our small airplanes. One favorite airplane was the modified 1950 Bellanca “Cruisemaster” I owned with two partners. Below: at Sedona with N-6RJ and fellow balloonist, Don Campbell’s V-35 ‘Bonanza’ parked next to our Bellanca.
Another very close call was our last, very last, trip to Mexico. That too is covered in detail via the following link:
NOPE! No more trips to Mexico for Cheryl and me! Sure, bad things can happen anywhere. But in Mexico, you can’t risk carrying a weapon for protection. In Arizona, it’s expected! Other states have reciprocity agreements as well. There’s something about knowing you have a last-ditch ability to defend yourself.
A few years ago I mentioned that I was going to renew my CWP (Concealed Weapon Permit). Cheryl said, “Maybe I’ll go with you!”
Hmmm! Cheryl had shown no interest in shooting. Ever! In fact I taught her to shoot a rifle when we were first married. Just one time and just a couple of shots! Now, 40 + years later she decides to obtain her CWP! “Why the sudden interest?” I asked. “Well, we have experienced a couple of home invasions not far from here. It seems like a good idea!” Of course I agreed. We made arrangements with another couple to attend a certified CWP course.
We went through the half-day ground school, then broke for lunch. Next we went down to the room where the firearm safety was taught. All good, then we were to go to the big indoor shooting range located in the basement of the large home where the CWP program is shared with a Mesa, AZ family.
The actual shooting objective was to hit a human shaped target positioned 50′ away. To pass, it would be necessary to hit the target (anywhere on the target) 10 times!
Luella, the other female in our group shot first. She hit the target with a couple of her shots outside the human shape. She passed. The next shooter, Cheryl, shot! Boy Howdy!
She had a tight grouping where the heart would be. Then she reloaded and shot again! Same results.
Cheryl in our Phnom Penh villa – Cambodia 1972
The instructor remarked to Cheryl, “You must shoot a lot!” “No,” Cheryl said, “I haven’t fired a pistol ever and haven’t held a rifle since we were first married!!” The instructor was aghast! He said, “I don’t believe this, try mine!” He handed Cheryl his 9MM Glock.” He explained the workings of the Glock. Cheryl shot again. Same results! She out shot everyone including the instructor. I’ve been a shooter since I was a younker in Wyoming. Cheryl surprised us all with an amazing performance! Humbling! Cheryl shrugged, it is what it is. No explanation! Yup! another dose of humble pie from TLOML!
A huge problem with Cheryl is that she is certain that she’d be unable to shoot a live human being. This is why I have been unable to coax her into carrying a gun.
I saw my buddy, Joe Davis’, nifty small pocket pistol. Perfect for a defensive weapon. They are a small revolver holding five 40 grain hollow point 22 magnum bullets. This weapon has more firepower than a .38 Special! It is a very safe but handy and quickly ready to fire weapon. The gun is made in Provo, Utah by the North American Arms, Co.
I thought this to be a perfect defensive weapon for both of us. I bought two. Cheryl refused to carry hers. So, I sold it for what I paid for it to a pal, Tom Risk, for his wife, Melanie.
Me, I like a weapon that’s close at hand. So, I have several. I also hope to never be forced to use one. But, if I do I’m pretty sure I’ll hit what I’m aiming at. OK, maybe not quite to the precision of Cheryl’s shooting, but close ’nuff for “gubmint work!”
It was around 1991 when Preston headed for Villanova University. It should not have been a surprise when Cheryl decided to go to college too. Not ‘back to college,’ GO to college! She’d never been!
She finished high school in 1966 and went to the school of cosmetology in Binghamton, NY. She didn’t like the idea of a career in a hair salon, so she went with Braniff World Airways as a reservations agent. Still, no college.
She liked being a “Rez-Agent” in Kansas City, but she, along with a number of agents, were displaced to Chicago. She did not like that move especially the going to and coming back in the dark. Cheryl took a voluntary leave and moved back to Kansas City. She had planned on applying with Pan American, but happened to visit with a friend at the Frontier Airlines city ticket office. Her friend said, “Frontier is hiring stewardess’ you might want to apply!” Initially, Cheryl didn’t think a life living out of a suitcase would be for her. Mentioning this, her agent friend said, “It’s a free trip to Denver!”
I am so very glad she took Frontier up on the offer! That’s Cheryl, back row second from right in her March, 1970 new hire class. Tall, beautiful, and haughty!
Chery has dońe a lot in her 75 years. Prolly, her greatest personal achievement, all on her own, was her college education. Our son, Preston, left home to play football in Pennsylvania on a full-ride scholarship. Cheryl thought, at first, she would take a few college classes.
After moving to Arizona from Colorado in 1987 Preston was starting his high school career at Saguaro High School. A good friend, former house-mate and ATΩ fraternity brother, Marsh Trimble, Official Arizona State Historian, taught Arizona history at Scottsdale Community College.
We had read some of his books (now numbering twenty) and loved his story-telling way. He’s actually more of an entertainer which stems from his college days with “The Gin Mill Three” where I was his first “groupie!”
Cheryl, Preston, and I decided to take some of Marshall’s classes along with Professor Gary Schaeffer’s “Southwest Studies” anthropology courses. Preston had yet to get through high school and had a dozen hours of college credit. As did Cheryl and I.
Later, when Preston had left for Villanova University in Pennsylvania, Cheryl really got interested in her classes. She was working part-time at SCC’s admissions office while taking courses of interest. She graduated with an AA degree. But, she was just getting started! A scholarship took her onward.
Cheryl enrolled in my alma-matter, Arizona State University. She was really getting into this college stuff! Before I knew it, she graduated in the Spring of 1996.
GRADUATED! Boy Howdy! Cheryl graduated from ASU Summa Cum Laude as THE Outstanding Graduate! I was Summa Cum Lately…
Cheryl was asked to give both the Commencement Address and Convocation Speech. She had never done anything like that before!
She did us all proud! As I watched her flawless performance, in the huge auditorium nearly full of fellow students, faculty, dignitaries, friends and family; I knew no one beamed with more pride than me. I wanted to shout “GO CHERYL!” It really was something and I was absolutely ‘bustin’ my buttons!”
She was on a roll! Another scholarship took her to ASU’s School of Social Work where she would earn her Master’s Degree. Again, her lowest grade was “A!” Cheryl was definitely at the upper end of the Bell Curve. I didn’t even know there was one…
I would soon discover her college experience was a HUGE mistake! She discovered she was smarter than me. I no longer ruled the roost. No longer was I the cock-of-the-walk! From then on I would realize our’s was more and more a real 50/50 partnership. After the shock wore off I grew to appreciate our new relationship. The love and affection remained, but now we could expect some lively debates on family matters. Richer and fuller was the result. OK OK, I’m still a bit shocked! …and humbled!
Next, Cheryl was hired as a school counselor at Town Meadows Elementary. She loved it. And, they loved her.
Three months into her budding career I received an offer to be part of the Startup Team at “New Air” which became JetBlue Airways. I would be based in New York City!
No way I was going to NYC without her she exclaimed! No surprise there. The family mantra began with “If you’re going, I’m going!” That will never change. We are as much one as two! We even finish the other’s sentences at times!
Cheryl was then in the uncomfortable position of telling the principal that she was “retiring” after just three months. How’s that for a quick career path! It was a lovely departure. The school gave her a retirement party as though she’d been there thirty five years! Amazing! And it was wonderful.
The financial loss with Cheryl ‘retiring’ wasn’t a problem. My expense check was greater than her salary! And with a Master’s Degree at that! Something terribly wrong with such low pay scales for public school teachers and staff.
Teachers and Counselors are grossly underpaid. Arizona is among the lowest in teacher’s salaries. And these are the people who are helping forge our children into productive members of society. Unfathomable really! Twenty years later, it is still unfathomable.
JetBlue proved to be a wonderful experience for both of us. I was 57 years old in 1999 when the opportunity arrived. The FAA Age 60 Rule meant that I would only be able to fly as a line pilot a little more than two years. But it also meant I would be the senior line pilot while I was there. I would remain another six or seven years as the senior test pilot and examiner. I became JetBlue’s first retiree! …an honor I would happily forego,
I could fly my choice of trips and usually was operating as a “Check Airman” supervising initial operating experience (IOE) to new captains and/or first-officers. It meant that I could fly day turn-around trips and be home every evening. During the day, Cheryl was ‘in heaven’ roaming around via subway and commuter trains exploring the Five Burroughs as well as Long Island.
We went to see Broadway plays and Off-Broadway plays. We saw a goodly number of things but missed seeing The Twin Towers. Our story about that horrific time in The American Experience is via this link:
Of the 77 new aircraft test flights/deliveries I made, Cheryl was along for 36. Since no one was shooting at us (as was the case in our Cambodia. experience), JetBlue became our 2nd fondest experience short of our Frontier Airlines Flamily which will always remain #1, at least for me. How could it not be, that’s how I found Cheryl!
Looking back over the past fifty one years, we’ve been around. We’ve seen a lot of what’s around the globe. We have been to beautiful vacation spots and some places that were just plain fascinating.
We’ve crossed the Pacific several times and the Atlantic nearly 80 times t’gether. There’s much left to see, and with the handy-dandy Oculus V/R (virtual reality) headset we are fixed to electronically visit any dang place we want to and not have to travel via the airlines.
We both n’joyed our time with the airlines. However, the degradation of airline travel has, for me at least, not wanting to submit to the travail of air travel today. And we sure want to be home in case our grandchildren ever stop by!
Ten years ago, November 9, 2012, Cheryl had a nice birthday party. It was a GREAT surprise! I had it all set up with friends and family coming from as far as Boston, Denver, Seattle, and elsewhere.
I had arranged to use the Confederate Air Force museum hangar where I was a volunteer (before the place went to hell due to a fouling of leadership. See the BEARS story herein)…
Soon after this photo, folks began to show up.
Two good friends, both great entertainers, were there with their guitars and voices. I had help from neighbors, Angelo and Kathleen Daurio along with Susan Chesnut in orchestrating a ruse.
Teense Willford Ed Newberg
Angelo would be with me at the CAF, a very normal thing. The girls would be busy traipsing around until time to come and pick Angelo and me up for supper. I had surreptitiously let the girls know I had an issue with my vehicle. Hence the need for a ride.
Kathleen & Angelo Daurio
All pre-arranged they came around the ramp to the closed hangar door. Cheryl said they could wait there and she’d go grab Angelo and me. Susan said, “OH NO!” “I’d like to see the museum please!” “OK, let’s go then.” Susan was wheelchair bound so we had that to deal with, but no problem.
Everyone was hiding out of Cheryl’s view as she entered the hangar by the balloon arch with a big sign on it. Yup! Blew her socks off. Especially when she saw her son and grandchildren!
L-R: Billy, Chuck & Cindy Gołąb, my łatę sister, MM
Dylan huggin’ “Grammy” with Gary & Mary Gibson lookin’ on!
The “NO PRESENTS PLEASE” fell on some deaf ears!
We. had some really TERRIFIC neighbors. Above & below are our Ahwatukee neighbors.
Grandkids, nuthin’ better!
Absolutely wonderful turnout for TLOML❣️
Boston & Philadelphia made a great showing!
The Vaught boys & the Walker kids. Like close cousins! Missing a photo of Jer & Pam Vaught
Barbara & Lois were roommates at ASU. Cheryl’s birthday was also a reunion!
Alan & Gloria Davis former neighbors at the Dam West,Aurora,CO
HotAir Balloon Bunch Lucy, Fran, Diane, & Vel
Mary Ellen & Ed Beauvais
BIL Norm & Sister Martha Jo
Nephew, Kurt Garbin & girl friend
Teense & Sandy Willford
Fred & Clede Gorrell
Annette & Bob Urban
Bill & Kathy Bullock
Cousin Nora Stull & nephew Kurt Garbin
Kippy Davis, Laurie & Dave Baggs & Joe Davis
Tanner, Tony, & Laurie Carcione
Sylvia & the late great Bob Hantla
Susan Chesnut & Marissa Gurkee
Vicky & Doug Bader
Dave & Tomme Kaplan & Denise Hurd
Teense & Janet Donelan’s Dad & Janet & me
Captain Larry and Peggy Perkins
Jim Thorne & Mike Braegger loading up!
Another Wyoming pal, Bob Zimmer & friend
Preston scored some BIG points with his Mom!
Gianna our oldest grandchild scoring points!
Middle grandchild, Kaylie, adding to her Grammie’s tears of joy!
By the time it was Dylan’s turn Grammie’s eyes were faucets!
The Allen Bunch L-R: Donna & Taylor Faieta, Carol & Mike Hollingsworth, Chris & Jen Allen
Boy Howdy were the eats good! Three cakes after a load of really good Mexican cuisine!
PEO. L-R: Martha Jo, Deb Short, UNK, Jan Chisum, Virginia Howe, Ginny Coleman, Linda Lierman, Cheryl, Barbara Wulbrecht, Lindy Isacksen, KNEELING: Ruth Ann Hogan, Linda Fritsch, Margaret Pogue.
This was home for 18 years!
We are now adjusting to a much smaller place, a condo! The story doesn’t end here. We have places to go, people to see!
I LOVE YOU Miss C❣️THANK YOU FOR A WONDERFUL LIFE❣️