Research begins anew for 1945 Veterans Air crews and 2017 families.

After taking a research break at the end of last year, I’m resuming my efforts. Still looking for more 1945 Veterans Air crews and current day families.

But first, I need to refresh my memory. What do I know? What have I forgotten? What data have I accumulated but not absorbed? (That last category is rather voluminous!)

Actually, as I go through my files, the amount of information already collected quite astounds me. What you see on this website barely scratches the surface. I was unprepared for how vigorous my project became in a relatively short time.

Planning an RV trek to meet families and broaden research.

Intriguing topics abound in the Veterans Air story. Tracing origin and whereabouts of our aircraft. Determining our domestic routes. Finding our one missing crew manifest for the UNRRA Warsaw flight May 8-13, 1946. (The remaining five manifests are true treasure!) Unraveling the company legalities. And sussing out behind-the-scene dramas. These topics I had deliberately put aside to search instead for the men and women who joined my Dad, Saunie Gravely, in founding, financing, flying and coaxing his air line into existence — and their “today” families.

Gracie, trimmed in deep purple and charcoal grey, will transport Gaye Lyn down the road to meet families of her Dad's 1945 Veterans Air crews.
Gracie, my magic carpet. Ready to roll down the highways and back roads!

They remain paramount. I’m far from finished.  And they nudge me to broaden my research techniques.

Meet Gracie!

To that end, in April, I purchased a magic carpet. Not a DC-3 (now wouldn’t THAT be somethin!!??).  Instead, she is a 25′ RV that I’ve named Gracie!

I’m headed out for first-time visits with three VAE families and for revisits with three other families.  Along the way, I’ll continue my search for new ones and dig though materials at aviation-rich libraries and museum collections. Plus, I’d love to attend a few aviation events along the way.

First stop – DALLAS – meeting two VAE families…for the first time!

[In this section, clicking on the Veterans Air crew or family member name will open up more of their Veterans Air story.]

Departing home July 17, two days later at my first stop, I’ll meet John Noll’s daughter, Buffy, and Michael Frome’s son, Will.

John Noll Veterans Air Aviator transitioned from DC-4s to Cessna 120 cockpits.
Captain John Noll. In the seat he was born to occupy!

John J. Noll was one of Dad’s seven founding 1945 Veterans Air crews! My first conversation with Buffy (just over two years ago!!!) still makes me grin! She struggled to decide if I was trying to sell her something or if I was legitimately somehow related to her father’s flying career.] Buffy, lucky for me you didn’t hang up! See you soon! I’m really excited about this!

A close up of young, smiling Michael Frome in World War II uniform and jauntily placed cap.
Michael Frome photo used in his 1946 Washington Post article about Prague.

Michael Frome navigated four of Dad’s UNRRA flights (to Prague, Warsaw and Athens), was a Washington Post journalist, and VAE’s inexplicable “coincidence.” Michele (Michael’s daughter) and Will and I have spoken and emailed since July last year (2016). I was overjoyed to met Michele in November last year (a story I must share with you) and now, Will, in just two weeks.

Where next…???

Then on to Florida (way down near Palm Beach) for three family visits:

Marilyn and Bob Gries
Marilyn and Bob
Robert Gries
Robert Gries

Marilyn Gries, the vivacious widow of Robert Gries, Flight Navigator and Business Manager for the 1945 Veterans Air crews. I invite  you to enjoy reading about Marilyn’s own VAE adventure while we enjoy each other’s company. I so look forward to seeing her again. Lucky me!!

Sister and brother, Ellen and Al Stettner in their Dad's apartment.
Ellen and Al relaxing in their Dad’s living room.

Ellen and Al Stettner, the daughter and eldest son of Jack Stettner, Veterans Air co-founder, investor, pilot, and ops-manager. During this visit, I’ll be saying my formal good-bye to Jack. He passed away last November 28th. I had the joy of meeting him, hugging him, laughing with him, and reminiscing with him only three months before he died.

Al Stettner, Gaye Lyn, Jack and Scott Stettner
Al, Jack & Scott with lucky Gaye Lyn
Ellen Stettner and Gaye Lyn at breakfast.
New sisters…Ellen Stettner and Gaye Lyn.

Now, I will pay my deep respects at the lovely gravestone that Ellen, Scott and eldest son, Al, recently placed in memorial…Forever proud of you.  I will be forever proud to know the entire Stettner family.

Jack Stettner, a loving memorial that reads "Forever proud of you."
Jack Stettner, a loving tribute chiseled in granite…Forever proud of you.
Richard Broughton
Richard Broughton

Richard Broughton was 1st and 2nd officer on four of Dad’s DC-4 flights to Warsaw, Prague and Athens.

While I first met Craig, his eldest son, on this trip, I’ve been in touch with Craig and his brother Robert (Bob), a physician in Kentucky, many times since locating them in November 2015.

Part of my excitement was Craig and Bob’s personal memories of their Dad telling them of his exploits in  providing war relief to Europe, particularly the challenges (and aromas!) of flying calves to Greece.  (Sorry I had no photos of the Broughton “boys” when this Post was written. But that changed! Here’s Craig Broughton and Bob Broughton plus a story of their Mother Anna.)

Then, on to South Carolina.

We lost another of our adventuring Veterans Air crew members on 20 December 2016.  Thomas Cowart passed away in Columbia, SC.  Quite candidly, losing Thomas was the fourth and final gut-punch in 2016 that triggered the six month break I took from this project.  Now, I’ll find peace and love in gathering hugs from his two daughters, Angie and Joy, at the beginning of August.

Map showing potential stops on Gaye Lyn's Veterans Air trek between South Carolina and Tennessee. Kentucky may even be along the zig zag itinerary.
Zigging and zagging route after SC to be determined. MAP generated with AAA Trip Tik app.

And afterwards…more zig-zag itinerary…TBD.  Watch this space!

Dear Veterans Air Families… (and those of you interested, but as yet unknown to me),

If you’re reading this, please be in touch! Along my southerly route this July and August or more northerly route come Fall, I would love to sit over cups of coffee and have you regale me with your Dads’ stories.

My best,
Gaye Lyn


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