I have exchanged a few emails with Claire Jeffko, and I asked her permission to share with you her letters about her husband Ed. I thought they are very moving letters. It made me think about how we all promise to cherish, love and support on our wedding day, but very few of us can say that we have always fulfilled our vows. Here is a letter from a woman who lived up to hers.
Above is a photo of Ed and Claire Jeffko. Among his many passions in flying, Ed was a Corvair guy. Last July Ed did not return from a flight in his Glasair over the Cascade mountains. It is very a rugged area, and the accident site has never been found. Many spouses in the same position would regret their loved one ever flew. Not Claire. Her letter is the finest example of how real love seeks to support the passions and dreams of a mate:
“William, Thank you for your kind response. Ed loved everything about flying and I mean everything. If he could have been a bird, he would’ve. He flew with the wind and was the most up to date and careful pilot I
have ever known.
When I first met Ed over 33 years ago, he was flying a little Cessna
150. Green. We flew every single day we could, which was often.
After we got married, we had the 150 for about four more years. Then
he traded it for a D-4 Cat to work on our property. Let me tell you,
a pilot without a plane is a sorry situation. I could only handle it
for a year and then forced the issue to buy another plane as he was
driving me crazy!!! So, we bought a Piper Cherokee which we still
have. The Piper turned Ed back into the man I knew and loved. The
man had to fly. When the Glasair kit came out we fell in love with it
and although it took more years than we wanted to complete the plane
we finished and had it signed off about two years ago. When our
grandkids saw the Glasair they were not happy. After all, we would
lug all their bikes, trikes, and assorted stuff over the mountains for 23 years. But, in the Glasair there were but two seats….Grandma and Grandpa seats. Certainly not grandchild friendly. I helped every inch of the way to build that plane and the N number was my birthday. Flying the Glasair was as close to heaven as we could get, especially with the clear canopy. We essentially were flying our dream.
And, so last July as he went to pick up one of our grandsons for the
summer, Ed and the Glasair 743CA went down in the North Cascades,
taking so many dreams with it. However, Ed was a pilot through and
through and wherever he is, I know he is flying. – Claire“
Claire also added:
“We may never find him. He and that plane were as one. But, I will search for him the rest of my life.”
If you go to a zoo and look at a tiger or a bear in a cage, you will often see them repetitively pacing in a trance. You don’t need to be insightful to understand that a wild animal in a cage looses it mind and all the elements of what made it fascinating in nature. All that remains is its body, and only the most ignorant observer thinks they are seeing the actual animal. On the other end, domesticated animals consider their pen home and are happiest with the security it seems to provide. In extreme cases they will return to, and stay in, their pen even when the barn is burning down.
Men with real value to their lives are neither wild animals nor fully domesticated ones. They have a full range of actions. Most men today have the domesticated end down pat. There are a lot of good aspects of this, but alone, it is unbalanced. Powerful forces of our society steer men to and reward them for becoming fully domesticated. There is no such general acceptance for the man who seeks to have his individual adventure, make his own path, reject the fears he was told to internalize.
Many spouses of both genders, meaning well, seek to protect and shield their mate, to prevent the possibility of any harm. Claire’s letter is the rejection of this. She understood that a large and integral part of the man she loved was a free bird. One can try to justify caging a bird by claiming to ‘protect’ him, but we know this only reduces one to being a warden, not a protector. Her letters speak of fulling and supporting all aspects of Ed’s life, all of his passions and facets. Her reward was 33 years with a full person, not half of one.
What makes aviators different? some one from outside of aviation would read Claire’s words as some type of accident story. People inside of aviation, people still committed to having full lives including adventure, read her words as a very moving love story. People outside of flying would only focus on Ed’s accident, and think of his ‘bad luck.’ Aviators, Ed included, would see just the reverse, that Ed was one lucky guy, because he obviously found the right person to share his life with.-ww
I encourage any one who wishes to share their thoughts on this to do so here. Ed was subscribed to this blog, and Claire will have a chance to read them. If you wish the note to be privately sent to her directly, just include that in the subject line and I will take care of it.-ww