formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

January 16, 2018 To Saigon

The Liberty Gazette
January 16, 2018
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: My favorite adage comes through again: “A mile of highway can take you a mile. But a mile of runway can take you anywhere.” This time, we boarded EVA Airlines for a sixteen day adventure through Southeast Asia.

From Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport we’d stop first in Taipei, Taiwan before continuing to Saigon (the North Vietnamese won the war so it’s officially Ho Chi Minh City now, but the folks living there love you more if you call it My Saigon or just Saigon, which was their city).

Mike: Near midnight, we departed in a Boeing 777. Our track was north of what would have been the most direct route between Houston and Taipei, probably to avoid strong headwinds. While everyone slept, I watched our progress on the seat back monitor map.

We flew northwest, crossed the Rockies over Idaho then British Columbia and on to Alaska. I opened the shade over Fairbanks. We crossed the Bearing Straits and overflew Russia along the eastern part of Siberia. Outside, all was black. Suddenly, over the Sea of Okhotsk which separates mainland Russia from the volcanic Kamchatka Peninsula, our flight made a forty-five degree diversion toward the west coast of Japan and into a one hundred seventy-five knot headwind—away from the Korean Peninsula and North Korea’s lunatic dictator. Obviously we didn’t need to be over the Sea of Japan when he threw a tantrum.

As the sun rose, we approached Taipei. Breaks in the clouds allowed me to look down upon houses and buildings, and for the first time in my life, set my eyes upon an Asian city.

Linda: I call Taipei’s airport “the Hello Kitty airport” for its abundant portrayal of the little cartoon cat—a playground, a lounge, wall paper, life-sized stand-ups, wall hangings, statues, pay phone, and retail store with everything HK. Pink is everywhere.

The sixteen and a half hour flight to Taipei was too much. I wouldn’t recommend such a long flight. But we had over three hours to move about Hello Kitty airport before re-boarding for Saigon. We walked, browsed the many shops, and had our first bowl of Asian noodle soup in an Asian country.

Mike: We landed in Saigon at the same airport where U.S. troops arrived over 40 years ago. A few buildings at Tân Sơn Nhất airport remain from that era. Most have been replaced with airport expansion.

Customs in Vietnam was straightforward and reasonably quick. Outside, I guess they’re used to it, but passenger pick-up was like the trading floor of Wall Street. We located our driver and I soon realized my mistake in sitting in the front seat. I was introduced to Saigon traffic mere millimeters from vehicles in front of and next to us. Traffic rules are only a suggestion.

In the coming weeks we’ll share more about our visit to Southeast Asia. We opted for airline travel between cities to leave more time for experiences. The places the airplanes took us provided for truly amazing experiences. Stay tuned. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

January 9, 2018 Vintage Journals from Domestic Papers

The Liberty Gazette
January 9, 2018
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Lee Steiner has a business and sells her products on the popular internet marketplace, Etsy. We met Lee at a Houston Writers House meeting when she presented her unique creations and immersed us in her passion for the past. Lee’s company, Domestic Papers, blends her lifelong love of books, paper, art, and antique ephemera into a fun mix of vintage vibe handmade books.

From her fascinating talk and a thorough look through her books, we were absorbed in her story. Lee finds trashed books no one wants and gives them a second life by creating journals for writers, artists, travelers, moms, teachers, and anyone who likes to draw or jot down their thoughts and ideas.

Recreating the books is the journey she loves. Her zeal ignites an audience of writers and artists. She’s learned the old ways of bookbinding and her results are stunning, adorable, and lovely. You can trace the history of every book she turns from old to new in her studio back to its beginning perhaps centuries ago, in lands far away.

Lee is in the Houston area, but you can easily see and buy her vintage and antique rebirths on Etsy.  As you browse her shop, you’ll see many of the books have a fascinating history to boast, thanks many times to old and interesting photos, postcards, maps, and general miscellany she collects when she travels.

And yes, there’s an airplane in this story.

After Lee’s intriguing show, Mike and I wandered up to peruse the offerings. We were met with journals of great variety in both form and function and were impressed with her artistic skill, imagination, and weaving things she loves into a business.

As I stood at one end of the table, a friend showed me a green book with gold lettering and the silhouette of an airplane in old fabric covering typical of hardbacks decades ago. The binding is beautifully re-stitched in ancient fashion and several pages from the original book have been salvaged. Between them are blank pages and graph paper. This had been Francis Pope and Arthur Otis’s book, “Elements of Aeronautics,” published by World Book in 1941.

Originally 660 pages, it served as a textbook for an introductory course in aeronautics at the high school level. Library card pockets are still on the inside of both front and back covers, but affixed to each pocket’s space where the due date would be stamped is a photo cut from the original book. Boeings and Douglases are sprinkled throughout the little journal, and Lee even rescued a page of instructions on how to figure a wind triangle. Patti Atkins can appreciate that.

Mike found a map-themed journal to take on our next trip. It will be perfect for jotting down sights and experiences in the moment.

With Lee’s books, you can continue a tale she’s reincarnated, but the rest of its story is up to you.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

January 2, 2018 The Masons and Mr. Gilmour

The Liberty Gazette
January 2, 2018
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: Across the pond, Irishman Brendan O’Brien thrills air show audiences. As a youngster growing up in London, he wanted to fly like the birds. But life changed in his early teens. Despite the hardships that came with losing his parents so young, he became a world record holder of over 200 flying records, earned an unlimited license to fly any aircraft, and proved he wasn’t just another brick in the wall.

Linda: Two things I’ve said ever since learning to fly: One, the best way to get over the fear of flying is to learn to fly; it takes the unknown out of the equation, and we really only fear the unknown. Two, drummers would make good helicopter pilots—all hands and feet have to be moving independently, but in coordination. I stand by both statements, and appreciate the confirmation provided by Mr. and Mrs. Mason and their friend, Mr. Gilmour. I also appreciate the Masons’ support for the idea that a non-pilot spouse should at least learn how to land the family airplane, should the need arise. When we present a “Pinch Hitter” course to non-pilot spouses that is exactly what we teach.

Mr. Mason dreaded flying, but he had to for business. One day he spoke his mind to a colleague who in turn convinced him that learning to fly would cure him of that fear. Mr. Mason considered the advice good, and went with his friend’s recommendation of Brendan O’Brien.

A busy schedule kept Mr. Mason from completing his private pilot training quickly, but in about a year he finally had a license. Then he realized, not being a spring chicken, if he had a sudden health problem while flying, he’d want his wife to be able to land the plane safely and get help. Therefore, a year later, Mrs. Mason earned her license. Both became smitten with aviation and soaked in all they could, including twin-engine ratings. The Mr. and Mrs. enjoyed flying their aeroplanes, but soon discovered there was more to British life than fixed-wing aircraft. There were rotorwings! Money was no object and soon Mr. Mason added a helicopter rating to his license, and Mrs. Mason followed a year later, falling in love with flying their whirlybird.

One of Mr. Mason’s co-workers, Mr. Gilmour, also hated flying, and for the same reason. When Mr. Mason explained how learning to fly changed his life and now he loved it, Mr. Gilmour contacted Brendan O’Brien to see if he could get the same results. He did.

It didn’t take long for the co-workers to invest in an airport and several airplanes together. All of this would not have been possible were it not for Brendan O’Brien, and also for the success of their album, Dark Side of the Moon.

These days, it probably doesn’t matter to Pink Floyd’s founding members, drummer, Nick Mason and lead vocalist/guitarist, David Gilmour, what side of the moon their on, as long as they’re airborne.

Monday, January 1, 2018

December 26, 2017 Truck-top Landings

The Liberty Gazette
December 26, 2017
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Last week I mentioned a story about a pilot racing his airplane against a passenger train. Attempting to land, or at least touch his wheels on the roof of a train car was probably a more popular feat at the dawn of aviation than we know.

That reported speed challenge occurred just south of Seabrook way back in 1919, but it reminds me of acts by today’s air show greats, Greg Koontz, Kent Pietsch, and Brendan O’Brien.

I’ve seen Kent Pietsch’s “short field landing” a few times. He performs the daring act in his Interstate Cadet, sponsored by Jelly Belly, the candy company. The Cadet kind of looks like a Piper Cub in that it’s a small, high-wing, tailwheel airplane. It’s mostly yellow, with a red nose and cowl, decorated all over with Jelly Belly brand jelly beans. For the record, Jelly Belly’s jelly beans were the ones in the White House during the Reagan Administration.

Kent has a show partner who drives a pick-up truck with a base coat of white paint, also covered in jelly beans. Attached to the truck is a flat metal roof, a platform barely longer than the length of the Cadet. Air show announcers will point out how short the runway is as Kent builds the suspense lining up to land on the truck driving down the real runway. This is spot-landing on a whole different level—literally!

In a crosswind, Kent balances the airplane on that platform on just one wheel. It’s an exciting act to watch and from a pilot’s perspective, the skills are highly admirable.

Kent’s story is the quintessential one of the “kid at the airport fence,” the romantic child-airplane love story that is part of many a pilot autobiography. He grew up in Minot, North Dakota, and every day after school he would do whatever it took to find a way to the airport and a seat in an airplane.

I’ve also watched long-time performer Greg Koontz land his yellow Piper Cub on “the world’s smallest airport,” a pick-up truck similarly outfitted with a landing platform, and likewise painted to the theme of his act. Greg’s persona in this act is Clem Cleaver, a hick who “accidentally” takes off in an airplane, but doesn’t know how to land. However, since this ol’ country boy can put anything in his pick-up, his son drives it down the runway with just the thing that will help. Greg deftly lands the Cub on the little runway atop the old black truck which is painted to advertise “Clem Cleaver’s Plumbin’ – Fertilizin’ – Vine Ripe Maters.”

I’ve never seen the Irishman, Brendan O’Brien, perform his version of the truck-top landing, but I’ve read his impressive resume. Raised in London, he was orphaned in his early teens. That’s when he began traveling. But out of the hardships that came with losing his parents so young, Brendan proved he wasn’t just another brick in the wall. We’ll explain that next week.

December 19, 2017 Plane Races Train - 1919

The Liberty Gazette
December 19, 2017
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: A man I knew who, when he was about nineteen, in a moment of testosterone overload, jumped into a Stearman with a fellow Private First Class (PFC) in his Navy pilot training class and took the training plane for a joy ride. They probably whooped and hollered inside that Stearman, oblivious to the consequences as they buzzed troop trains bringing new troops to boot camp at their California base during World War II.

Their boyish escapade was not looked well upon and both PFCs were penalized. I’ve always said had they been under the command of someone who could see past the poor choice to the bravery potential, with discipline they probably could have been retrained to be great fighter pilots. As it turns out, had they been born about thirty-five years earlier, I now think their fortitude would have been respected, even celebrated. I stumbled upon an old story, now in the public domain, that supports my theory.

The copyright has expired for the article, “Ellington Field Plane and S. P. Train Have Exciting Short Race.” This piece was published in the Houston Post June 28, 1919. I found it on When both sources said they couldn’t give permission to quote, I think they were concerned about the missing piece—no author’s name is given. They wouldn’t know who to credit. So even though there is no longer any copyright protection on this adorable story, I’ll just tell it in my own words and encourage you to read it on

One lovely Friday afternoon in June about five miles south of Seabrook, a Southern Pacific train carried passengers from Houston to Galveston. As they chugged along the tracks at less than today’s usual highway speed, an airplane departed from Ellington Field and got close enough for the rail passengers to see their surprise challenger. The article doesn’t mention what kind of plane these lucky people could describe to their grandchildren when they told the story over and over about the day they raced an airplane, but it was likely a Curtiss JN4 Jenny. Top speed: 75 miles an hour, versus the train at 60.

Reportedly, the airplane’s wheels even touched the top of the train a few times. Captive race contestants must have been glued to the windows. I picture them subconsciously lunging forward, cheering their box car to an unknown finish line.

Had there not been telephone poles crowding the air space the further they went, I think the airplane would have won. The pilot gave Team Train a good show until he had to peel off to avoid those poles.

In one generation, air racing against a train was acceptable, even written up in the paper as “exciting.” The same show of bravery by the young man and his friend who tried it in the 1940s wasn’t celebrated in the media. Instead, their wings were clipped. One day it’s dashing and daring, the next, its demerits and dungeons. Timing is everything.

December 12, 2017 Hints of Southeast Asia

The Liberty Gazette
December 12, 2017
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: Twin radial engines rumble as the lumbering old dark grey airplane smoothly swishes by the side of a mountain. Descending, it lines up to land on a runway of red clay and pierced steel planking. The airstrip is in a valley surrounded by moss-covered karsts, unusual rock formations that jut upward in different directions, carved by wind and water. A patchwork of green fields fits into the flatter spaces between the karsts.

Into this "Shangri-La," the heavily-laden airplane makes its final approach. As it settles onto the ground a grinding noise comes from underneath—the pilots forgot to lower the landing gear.

What follows has to be one of the longest gear-up landing sequences I have ever seen. The airplane continues its “crashing” journey down the runway and eventually splits in two as it slides off to the side. Nobody hurt, but the airplane, a Fairchild C-123K Provider, is toast.

The above scene is from the 1990 film, Air America. While Hollywood drew out the scene for over a minute, in reality, that gear-up landing would only last about fifteen seconds before the airplane stopped on the runway.

Sure, there’d be screeching of metal, but gear-up landings, while not the preferred method of returning an airplane to terra firma, are considered incidents, not accidents. They mostly just embarrass the pilot whose job it was to lower the gear.

The film wasn’t that good. Producers crafted the story using a group of people who were serving our country—with no recognition of their existence in a secret war zone—and made them out to be a bunch of profiteering mercenaries. Drama at the expense of truth.

What interested me about the movie, however, were the incredible aerial scenes. Airplanes landing on mountain top airstrips and flying over and around beautiful landscapes catches my attention.

Imagine three or four GoPro cameras strapped to an airplane as it weaves gracefully past rugged mountains into a jungle environment. Perhaps strap one camera on the nose, one on the tail, and one on the top for shots from all angles. Of course, now you can find video of flights like that, but not so much when that film was made almost thirty years ago. The cinematography was outstanding. It made me think at the time, someday I’m going to go there.

But in that beautiful place there had been a war. That gorgeous scenery was filmed in Thailand, depicting Laos, which we could not yet enter.

The war ended more than forty years ago, and Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos are now open to U.S. citizens for leisure travel. The U.S. dollar goes a long way in Southeast Asia, and people rent out their lovely homes on Airbnb.

There are still unexploded bombs in remote parts of Cambodia and Laos, but the main towns are safe and the beauty of the countryside is intact, just like in the movie.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

December 5, 2017 See Plane? Sea Plane?

The Liberty Gazette
December 5, 2017
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: As Robert Burns wrote in his poem, To a Mouse, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Ours did just that as we hoped for cooperative weather in the Pacific Northwest in November. It’s been years since I first flew a seaplane. With the annual flying stipend my employer provides, I planned to complete the commercial seaplane rating. But gale force winds dominated the game and scrapped my playbook.

I remember fondly our honeymoon in Maine, the first time I did a “splash-and-go.” We had been driving and saw a float plane flying low, appearing to be landing nearby. We drove in the direction we saw it go and happened upon a wonderful seaplane base. It was a lake ringed by houses with docks. Cessnas, Pipers, and other small aircraft on floats were tied securely, bobbing on gentle currents looking like they were gathered at a lake party, laughing and in a happy mood. Happy seaplanes.

It was an impromptu flight. A seaplane instructor who lived on the lake had time to take me up. I learned about the huge differences between taxiing, taking off, and landing on the ground versus in water and logged four splash-downs.

So two weeks ago, with that grand memory, I was excited to schedule a week of flying off the coast between Seattle and the San Juan Islands with one of the premiere float plane operators in the world—Kenmore Air Service.

Kenmore doesn’t just offer training. They take people on sight-seeing flights and partner with many of the bed and breakfasts in the Seattle area for romantic and fun flights to the islands.

I met my instructor, Bill, who had just retired from United Airlines. I knew we couldn’t fly the first day because the wind was howling so fiercely the waves would topple an aircraft with no warning. We hoped the weather would improve. But when we came upon continued harsh winds and high waves on the third day, Mike and I decided we’d reschedule for next summer and go on to visit family.

All was not lost, however. We had time with one of my sisters way up north in Bellingham, Washington, not far from the Canadian border, and then with several members of Mike’s family in Oregon.

Mike: My kinfolks are more the laid-back type, while Linda’s are usually on the go. This explains our different perspective on roses. I say we should stop and smell them. Linda says take a good whiff and enjoy as you breeze by.

We spent a few days at full throttle with Linda’s family and then relaxed beyond her comfort zone with my family, partly at a farm and partly high on a hilltop overlooking miles of Oregon land with views of snow-white mountains.

Linda: With all that “relaxing,” I’ve earned what I’ll do next—spend that flying stipend on more aerobatic training; full throttle, right here in the Great State of Texas. See you on the flip side!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

November 28, 2017 Joshua Knowlton

The Liberty Gazette
November 28, 2017
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: Joshua Knowlton is a helicopter mechanic in Oregon. More than that, he’s a dad to a ten-year old girl.

It’s been an active fire season in the west, and Joshua’s services have been critical for keeping firefighting helicopters flying. All summer he’s supported a Bell 407 for the Bureau of Land Management Helitack crew from Moab, Utah. In the long hours away from home, he promised his daughter a trip to Disneyland when dry season was over.

And a friend? Sure, a friend, too. While this upped the costs, Joshua was happy to have the friend along. But then he got to thinking. The friend has twin twelve-year old sisters. He couldn’t leave them behind—their family is homeless.

Joshua reached out to a compassionate world with a GoFundMe campaign for $1,000 to offset the extras. Genuine and unpretentious, he’s just a dad who wanted to do what felt right. The world felt good about his intentions. Swarms of people cheered his efforts, piling $1,800 on him. As a result, four young princesses enjoyed an escape, did whatever they wanted, laughed and played, carefree.

The happy, tired, crew of five returned from Disneyland last week. For the parents who trusted him with their three daughters, and donors who trusted him with their money, Joshua documented a grand vacation on Facebook.

Joshua: They met Anna and Elsa from Frozen, and other characters, and ate about a month’s rent worth of churros and ice cream. I’m not sure if they ever get full.

They rode the “Guardians of the Galaxy” twice, the roller coaster a good half dozen times, the “Grizzly River Run” five straight times, the Ferris wheel, the swings, the metal zeppelins, the “Soarin’ Around the World” ride twice, and I can’t remember everything else.

Seeing their reactions was pure magic. When we exited the “Soarin’” ride they compared goosebumps on their arms. They wanted to fly. I told them that ride was a lot like flying a helicopter and they could do it if they wanted to, that good things take work, and excuses are garbage. You only fail when you stop trying; the world owes you nothing, gives you nothing. Don’t let anyone slow you down, hold you back, trip you up, or clip your wings. Most of all, don’t let anyone waste your time. We are given a finite amount of time on this earth. Use it wisely; do something worthy of those precious minutes.

Linda: Joshua is a member of Women in Aviation, International, and encourages women to explore opportunities in aviation. And for his daughter and everyone else’s, he’s keenly interested in fighting child sex trafficking. Joshua’s humanity-focused stewardship through the amusement park vacation is not the end of his story. He says he’s called to do so much more to help people.

Joshua: This trip was designed to provide magic and wonder for these girls, and a couple days away from life’s hardships. It worked. Serving others makes me feel better than anything.

November 21, 2017 The Toy Cousin

The Liberty Gazette
November 21, 2017
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: How many shopping days left? Back to toy land we go! We wrote a here few weeks ago about the interesting personal and aviation history of Ole Kristiansen, the founder of LEGO, and his son, Godtfred, who created what is today the second busiest airport in Denmark, Billund Airport. LEGO also made a few airplane building kits, including a biplane in 1967. What I didn’t recall was that in my ancestry there was also a toy maker.

My sister, Diane, is the family genealogist. While visiting her in Washington recently, we reminisced about childhood toys, like the painted wood blocks packed in an old-time mail-looking bag. On the front was printed “SIFO Mailbag of Blocks.” The letters forming Sifo were drawings of people who bent into the shapes of each letter. I remember trying to figure out how a person could bend in those ways—especially the letter O, the character drawn in a backbend in full circle! The blocks saw a lot of playtime at our house.

When Diane dug into our dad’s side of the family tree, she discovered Silas Morris Ford Jr., who had a toy company in Minneapolis from 1944-1975. Si for Silas, Fo for Ford: Sifo. A second cousin twice removed, Silas was in a part of the family our dad never knew. So the fact that we had those blocks is kind of surprising. Obviously we didn’t get them from Cousin Silas.

Here I’d been curious about LEGO’s toy airplane history and hadn’t realized the existence in my own family history. A quick search—oh, what did we do before the internet—and I came upon the history of Sifo toys. The brand boasted “from the land of Hiawatha, the great teacher.”

As I searched through the 1956 Sifo Toys catalog, I found pictures of that familiar mailbag of blocks along with many other educational toys, puzzles, and building sets. Among the products for children eighteen months to ten years, I came across my pot of gold on page thirty-one. The “DC-28 Construct-A-Plane” was billed as an “immense and challenging twin-engine ‘do-it-yourself’ airplane,” suitable for children four to ten years old.

It would be neat to discover other aviators in my family history, but how unique to find a toy maker. And it’s okay that there is no such thing as a DC-28 in the real world of aviation—just a Dyson upright vacuum cleaner model. In fact, Sifo’s Construct-A-Plane looks more like a Lockheed Hudson with its twin boom tail. I suspect by naming it such, Cousin Silas didn’t have to worry about infringing on the rights of the Douglas Commercial (DC) aircraft company.

Sifo made their buildable airplane about a decade before LEGO made their first one. How cool would it be if it turned out Silas or one of his children built an airport for their community, as did LEGO’s Kristiansen family.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

November 14, 2017 Mrs. Douglas

The Liberty Gazette
November 14, 2017
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Helen Elizabeth Burgner Douglas Hart was the only child of a newspaper owner. She had a pony and a cart and could be seen trotting about Charleston, Illinois, circa 1900. Helen was educated at Wellesley College, a classmate of Soong Mei-ling, who became Madame Chiang Kai-shek, First Lady of the Republic of China.

But that’s about enough of the things Helen probably wouldn’t care if you never knew. Helen was so full of life and love that her giving meant far more to her than how gifted she was.

She moved to nearby Mattoon and married Clarence Douglas, an attorney and judge, and then Maurice Hart, whose death made her a widow for the second time. Establishing the Douglas-Hart Foundation, Helen built an art gallery, a cultural center, Friendship Park and a nature preserve, all for the benefit of everyone in Mattoon.

Helen supported local businesses, but she was also well traveled. Before their trip to The Hague at the end of WWII, she and Clarence stopped by my grandparents’ house and asked my mother and her sister if they would each like to pick one of their pen pals for the Douglases to visit. My mom chose her pal, Reit Lambrechtse, a Danish girl with five younger siblings. Mom and Aunt Marge’s Girl Scout troop had sent care packages to a Girl Scout troop in war-torn Europe. Each kit assembled was intended for one girl and contained a toothbrush, toothpaste, a comb, a washcloth, and soap. But the recipient scout troop had more members than the one Mom was in, and she and her friends learned from the Danish thank-you letter that the gifts were divided among the girls to be sure no one was left out. Reit got the comb my mom sent. Her thank-you note expressed gratitude from all six Lambrechtse children, who were very happy they could now comb their hair. One comb—for six grateful children in a family trying to make it through the tragedies of war.

When Helen and Clarence visited the Lambreschste family, they were so impressed with the children they offered to sponsor every one of them who wanted to come to the U.S. Eventually, five of the six emigrated to start a new life. Reit stayed to take care of her parents.

Helen passed away in 1991, but from her vision flow the peace and beauty of Shakespearean gardens at Friendship Park; from her compassion Lambrechtse descendants enjoy freedom. But that only gives you the tiniest peek into Helen’s life. I wouldn’t want you to get the impression she was too humble and peaceful to be exciting. Helen was a renaissance woman, ready to take on the world and the next adventure right around the corner. She never stuck her nose in the air except when she was flying. The first female aircraft owner and licensed pilot in Coles County, Illinois, just made the world a better place.