8 months ago

Granby Living Mar2018


CELEBRATING OUR SENIORS CAREER PILOT AL SCHMIDT LANDS IN GRANBY His life story includes Hall of Fame induction and transporting Dalai Lama, Richard Gere BY SARAH MERRILL “Granby-ites are friendly people, and I’ve found they are concerned about one another. The roots seem to run deep here.” — Al Schmidt Al Schmidt's mother pins on his Navy Wings of Gold in 1953 After residing — and flying airplanes — all over the map, Albert “Al” Schmidt settled down in Granby in 2016. He lives with his daughter and her family in North Granby, and he is happy to be here. Schmidt explains, “When we were living in Bloomfield [in the ’70s and ’80s], I always thought Granby seemed like a very appealing community. When my daughter settled here with her husband in the 1980s, it was always a joy for me to visit.” Schmidt has become an enthusiastic member of the Granby Senior Center community, participating every week in meals and other activities. His daughter says the Senior Center has been an important means for her father to make friends and connections in town. Schmidt calls the center a “treasure.” No doubt, Schmidt’s Granby friends have enjoyed hearing his life stories, a fascinating array of experiences and observations gathered over 88 years. He was born in 1929 in Springfield, Illinois, and most of his childhood memories are related to Scouting — he is still a proud member of the Eagle Scouts. Schmidt was educated in the Springfield school system and attended Western Illinois University, graduating in 1951 with a B.S. in business education. He married his high school sweetheart, Marilyn. Rather than face the Army draft, Schmidt enlisted in the Navy in 1951 as an airman recruit. Qualifying for the Naval Aviator Cadet program, he began his aviation career in 1952. He earned the coveted Navy Wings of Gold in 1953 and was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy Reserve. After serving 16 years in the reserves, he retired as a lieutenant commander. Thinking Inventory of is buying, low, now selling is or the investing time to list in your real estate? house! Call Jessica Moore your local REALTOR ® 860-808-4904 Jessica Moore, REALTOR® 5 Star Zillow Premier Agent 12 | MARCH 2018

Al Schmidt charters actor Richard Gere and the Dalai Lama in 1981 In 1958, Schmidt took his first civilian flying job as copilot on a Lear star. He worked for Sangamo Electric Company in Springfield and its subsidiary, Capitol Aviation, demonstrating, converting and selling Twin Beech airplanes. He flew all over the country in this capacity. Schmidt then worked for Aero Commander in Bethany, Oklahoma, flying its Aero Commander planes and directing sales training schools. After a couple more moves for new jobs, Schmidt landed in Connecticut in 1971. “I dragged my family out here to the East Coast and we settled in Bloomfield, where we stayed for over 20 years,” he says. He went to work as the eastern regional sales manager for Learjet in Bloomfield, and then in 1973 he joined Kaman Corporation, based at Bradley Field. In the mid-’80s, Schmidt acquired his own plane, which he used for pleasure and business, including chartering many flights. Over the years, Schmidt chartered interesting people all over the country, including a number of celebrities. His favorite passenger was the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet. In 1981, Schmidt flew the Dalai Lama and his party of seven monks from JFK Airport to New Haven. To make the flight even more interesting, they were joined by actor Richard Gere, a practicing Buddhist. The sum of Schmidt’s flying experience is impressive. When he stopped flying in 2005 — after 54 years in the air — he had completed over 27,000 hours of flight time and flown 79 different models of airplanes. In November, Schmidt was named to the Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame (he resided in R.I. before moving to Granby). “That was probably the pinnacle of my career — or at least one of them!” says Schmidt. In addition to his career as a professional pilot, Schmidt’s accomplishments include raising five children with his wife Marilyn, who died in 2000. He has 18 grandchildren and 15 greatgrandchildren, with two more due this year. Longevity runs in his family, says Schmidt, “so with any luck, I’ll welcome a great-great-grandchild before I go.” Schmidt’s Christian faith has been an essential element of his life, and he’s been active in church programs and leadership wherever he has lived. While in Bloomfield, he served as an elder and chairman. In Rhode Island, he was active in the First Baptist Church in Wickford, involved in outreach and service in hospitals and nursing homes around the state. Schmidt completed graduate study at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 2004, earning a master of divinity degree, and he was ordained as a Baptist minister in 2010. Schmidt has not yet joined a congregation in Granby but has had positive experiences with the town and its residents thus far. “Granby-ites are friendly people,” he says, “and I’ve found they are concerned about one another. The roots seem to run deep here.” These days, Schmidt keeps his feet on the ground, exploring the world from the perspective of a writer. Given the breadth of his experiences and the depth of his insight, it’s no wonder that he has written and published three books, which include sermons, memories and short stories. A fourth book — the story of his life, including his flying career — will soon be hot off the press. No doubt, it will be a fascinating read. Sarah Merrill is a personal historian with Merrill Memoirs, based in Granby. She works with individuals and families to capture and record their personal memoirs and family histories. Visit her website at VALK YRIE EQUESTRIAN CENTER Ask about Multi- Dose Medication Packaging We accept all Medicare D plans, including CVS/Caremark and Tricare. Free Delivery available. 860-653-2517 9 HARTFORD AVENUE, GRANBY, CT 06035 WWW.GRANBYPHARMACY.COM Boarding / Training / Lessons ENJOY RIDING WITH US 860-653-0288 175 Barn Door Hills Rd., Granby | | GRANBY LIVING | 13

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