Thomas Cowart dies December 20, 2016. Veterans Air Express Flight Engineer

Veterans Air Flight Engineer Thomas Cowart passed away December 20, 2016

I’ve delayed entering this on our site. Our DC-4 Veterans Air Flight Engineer Thomas Cowart passed away on December 20th.  It hurts so much.

Sitting side-by-side in November 2015. Hard to believe that Veterans Air Flight Engineer Thomas Cowart passed away in December.

Thomas Cowart and Gaye Lyn share stories about his WWII service and post-war Veterans Air Express adventures. PHOTO CREDIT: Angie Cowart Cheek.

Father and daughter, Thomas and Angie Cheek, in November 2015 in SC. PHOTO by Gaye Lyn.

Thomas Cowart and his daughter, Angie Cowart Cheek, in November 2015. PHOTO CREDIT: Gaye Lyn 🙂

I spent a lot of time with Thomas…on the phone before we met…then in person November 10 and 11, 2015…at dinner in Panera…in front of my computer at Angie’s home showing him our website…at a down-home Southern fried chicken lunch with the four of us –Thomas, his two daughters Angie and Joy, and me.  (While sitting there it never dawned on me to ask the waitress to take our pictures.  I was too engrossed in their company.)

And for eleven months after that visit, there were the calls…the many, many calls…hours of really great conversation and laughter.  Much more than aviation or his connection to my Dad, we talked about life and God and the bible.  The latter is not a usual topic for me.  The bible was not part of my childhood studies, nor as an adult.  But it was the very fiber of Thomas’ being.  (You can read more here about a minister who prophesied when Thomas was 15 years old that he would become a missionary.  I regret I never got to telling you more about that part of his life. You see, he did serve as an ordained missionary in India for 13 years with his wife.  It’s where Angie & Joy spent their formative years.)

Chapters and Verses

At any rate, the Reverend Cowart mentioned specific chapters and verses that I might read.  And I did read them because I wanted to better share that part of Thomas’ life with him.

Journal entries that best disclose my emotions

I very seldom do this, but I am about to share two of my journal entries with you.  December 19 and 20, 2016.  They capture the immediacy of my emotions.  I needed time since then to reflect and adjust to Thomas being gone.  It has been doubly difficult because, as I had recently posted here, Jack Stettner also just passed away.

Light and heavy on my heart, 12/19/2016

When I go to my Pages, I often don’t have anything particular to write.  I go to discover what’s on my mind – or more likely to uncover what’s in my heart.  I’m journaling here, tonight, because of a deep quiet inside. It has pervaded my day. My last three days.

Contemplative. Sad. Grateful. Tearful. Smiling. Searching.  Brought on by a anticipatory waiting. For the email. Perhaps the phone. For another moment that won’t come. For the laugh that always warms my Soul that won’t bless me again. For a new story untold. Or an embellishment of one he’d told me many times.

This is first-person, I realize.  I don’t mean to be selfish. I understand full well the sadness and disbelief his family suffers. Theirs is a forever love, the deepest of connections.  I honor it to my Core. And I also am beginning to truly grasp how very personal my connection and love and loss is also. Unexpected. Amazing. Real. Very real.

Seemingly out of the blue came these airmen. Men who knew my Dad. They may not have remembered him now, across 70+ years, but they knew him. That alone is wondrous to me.  They knew Saunie. And they made his dream real to me, a breathing entity.

But it’s so much more. Each meeting. Each phone call. Each exchange of emails or letters. Each outreach from their “kids” or widows or grand-kids to me. It expands my heart. It extends my family.

Tonight, waiting, it’s Thomas who is light and heavy on my heart.  He is under Hospice care.  His daughters sit vigil.

Handosme, loving smile. Thomas Cowart passed away on December 20, 2016. He was 95.

Thomas. His smile says it all – joyous, positive, loving.

The very next day, December 20, 2016, our DC-4 Veterans Air Flight Engineer Thomas Cowart passed away. He was 95.

Thomas died early this morning.  I was exceedingly blessed to have shared a tiny part of his loving Spirit. I will miss the stories of his adventures, his laughter, his earnestness about his personal relationship with God, his heart-warming friendship. He always made me smile…even now, thinking about him…hoping he and Saunie will bump into each other in Heaven.


 

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Then & There…

A RECOMMENDED READ and irreplaceable for me: "Memories of the Jing Bao & Beyond," Authors Choice Press, 2001. Written by our own JACK Z. STETTNER - Veterans Air Express Co-Founder, Investor, Pilot and Operations Manager. As well as his considerable WWII experiences, Jack's book revealed new details about Veterans Air Express...plus the spirit and character of this organization that Jack obviously loved!