EAA Major Achievement Award.

Builders,

At the Friday night dinner at Zenith’s open house, I was very surprised when the EAA’s director of homebuilding Charlie Becker, presented the EAA’s Major Achievement Award to me for my work teaching builders about engines since 1989. I was completely unaware that I had even been nominated for it, and the only hint of the impending award was Charlie calling me a week earlier and saying ” I highly suggest you consider a haircut before going to Zenith.”

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With Charlie after the dinner.

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At the dinner, Charlie presented the award, and I was caught competely off guard. Several friends later said it might have been the first time they had seen me at a loss for words. The EAA considers the award for up to five members a year who have given long service to fellow members. While it means a lot that the EAA approved my award, it was very moving to have been in a room with several hundred builders and fellow industry people and have them stand and applaud. I have worked a lot of years with little evidence that anyone beyond the immediate Corvair Community understood what I was trying to share or how important it was to me. The moment it was presented was strong proof that  people in the larger home built community did understand. 

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Here is the main reason why the award was a surprise; As a harsh self-critic, I can offer plenty of evidence that I don’t deserve it.  People who have never met me often think I must be an opinionated know it all. Nothing could be further from the truth. I spend many quiet hours working alone everyday, and I spend a portion of it rexamining my perspectives and actions, and I am much more inclined to question myself than validate any opinion or action I have held or taken. If I have a sole redeeming quality, it is that I still have doubt, even when friends around me support and agree with me. That isn’t false modesty, it is just an awareness that comes from learning that the largest mistakes I made in life happened when I had the least doubt about which path to take. 

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I have many people in my life to thank for the success I have had. This ranges from builders who offered a positive and fair review of our efforts to my wife Grace Ellen who has shared 17 years of triumphs of great days and tragedies of the loss of friends, all with a resilance that asked a great deal of a very sensitive person. 

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It is my greatest fortune to have been born to my parents. There is no day where I feel I have lived up to the opportunity provided by simply being their son.  19 hours after driving away from the Zenith factory, we arrived back in our little town in Florida. The first stop I made was in front of the post office, where I carefully wrapped up the award and mailed it to my parents home in New Jersey. Walking outside, I paused for sometime in the shade to consider just how little my life would have been without them. The thought was more humbling than being presented with the award.

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-ww.

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