- Posted March 3, 2013 by
Vero Beach, Florida
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
The Life & Legacy of Love – Compliments of a DC-3
I have always been fascinated by the role of airplanes in our country’s history. I think it’s because they were the first World Wide Web, bringing people, languages, ideas, and values together.
Aviation days are a means of looking into the romance and history of our country. My earliest memories were formed at the Dayton Air Show. It was always something special. I still have vivid recollections of the thunderous circus of swooping and twirling aircraft.
So you can only imagine my delight of attending the annual Aviation Day at the Vero Beach Airport this past Saturday.
You see aviation history is a legacy that my husband, Jim, and I share. Both of our fathers were engineers who were fascinated by flight. Their wives were dreamers – like me. They passed this on to us in various ways from owning planes, to air travel, to visiting annual air shows.
Like most, my family heritage has been passed on through stories. My favorite, a romance, begins with the most unlikely of aircraft – a DC-3. I say that it is an improbable vehicle because at first glance this plane is not sleek, sexy or even really pretty. For heaven sakes it’s an aerial bus of sorts!
But if you take a closer look and think about the lives the DC-3 has connected – there is something full of love and adventure that reads like a romance novel.
Stepping on to the “Flagship Detroit” this weekend literally transported me back into my late Mother-in-laws modeling portfolio. Although it was not the exact DC-3 that drove her early career from the Motor City, it allowed me to visualize a family story I love so well.
Grace Helen, the daughter of Hilmer and Besse Sjoholm, of Ferndale, Michigan was picked out of line up by the famous Eddie Albert. The year was 1944 and my mother-in-law was just 15 at the time. The competition called, “Calling All Girls,” was named for and sponsored by one of America’s oldest magazine for young girls.
Family lore explains the young Grace won the Miss Michigan Beauty Pageant. However, it was quickly discovered that she lied about her age. She was quickly stripped of the award. None of this dampened her determination to make it big. Her persistence paid when she won the “Calling All Girls” contest. A DC-3 transported her and her mother to New York City for a stay at the Waldorf-Astoria. The trip included a visit to the Harry Conover Modeling agency, a part in the “Calling All Girls” Radio Broadcast, a screen test and a chaperoned dance. All of this led to her “being discovered.” As her modeling career took off so did the dreams of a handsome pilot.
Edward Isaac Falardeau, had the same Hollywood good looks of Eddie Albert. His steely blue eyes captivated Grace. She was only 14 when he kissed her to head off to fighter pilot training. By the time he finished Germany had surrendered and his dream of seeing action dissolved. Instead of heading home he volunteered to become a tail gunner of a B-29. As his training flights over Cuba ended, so did the war in 1945.
The love affair of sixty-three years soon began upon Ed’s return. That same DC-3 that launched Grace’s dreams of Hollywood, also delivered her leading man.
Ed’s love for aviation was now focused on perusing and marrying the “Crowley’s Model for the Day.” Without much thought, she and Ed eloped, and nine months later baby Bob was born.
You might say that this is where the story ends, however, Ed always told me that it was really when life began. He would always say their life together was the greatest adventure. “Each day was exciting and new,” he told me the day we buried her. “I never wanted anything else but to be by her beautiful side.”
She was always his inspiration from working during the day as a mechanic to attending night school and eventually being General Motor’s only top level engineer without a college education. He designed the “over-under-headlights” and the aesthetics of the GTO’s during 60’s. He also went on to work with John Delorean. Big dreams lead to success for the young couple. Although their family and wealth grew their greatest joy was just being in each other’s company.
So you see a DC-3 reminds me of one simple truth: Although a plane may take you to destinations of great distinction – happiness is being in the company of those who rule your heart.