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Thread: The Last Of the MAGI goes West....

  1. #1
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Feb 2005
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    The Last Of the MAGI goes West....

    The Baby Jesus was first paid homage by Three Wise Men. They were collectively known as the MAGI in the Bible.

    CloudDancer benefitted from his own MAGI. Three wise men who Chronicles readers have come to know as Dan and (brother) Rod Gunderson and their next door neighbor, arch nemesis, and mutually well respected pilot Leroy.

    We first lost "Leroy" in 1989 to death by alcohol. Then we lost "Dan" in the mid-to-late '90's to "natural causes", heartbroken at being unable to fly for the last few years of his life. He lost his air service to the IRS and spent his last couple of years driving a cab in Fairbanks. And I bet only a very few of his fares ever knew thay were riding with one of Alaska's greatest bush pilots.

    And now the last of my personal "Three Wise Men", the men who made me, for both better and worse, (mostly better) the man and pilot I am today; second only to Poppa CloudDancer in influence in my life; has taken the "final flight" West, as of a couple of weeks ago.

    I had tried to drop everything at the last moment and get up to Alaska to bid him my personal farewell, express my deep love and gratitude for all he had shared with me. Circumstances kept that from happening.

    However I received periodic updates from one of my fellow pilots who had flown with me when I was at the "Gundersons". Also Rod's daughter and granddaughter hooked me up to him by cellphone about 48 hours before he passed. Though the conversation was mostly one-sided (the breath of life barely there) I heard him whisper my last name once, and his granddaughter told me I brought several smiles to his face in the six minute conversation.

    Like Dan and Leroy before him, Rod hadn't flown in the last several years, yet spent all his time talking about the great flights, and the great people he flew with. It often dominated the conversation for Leroy and Dan as well in their late years.

    A few days after his passing, I received a copy of a poem one of his daughters had written for his eulogy. I just wanted to share it with you.
    Like the Chronicles, it offers a glimpse of what our life was like in rural Alaska so many years ago.


    Niner niner, over …seemed like gibberish to me,

    Struts, props…
    see that there, you’d point out on the horizon plain,
    Trying to drum it into my brain,
    in case I was the one
    To see with pilot’s eyes.

    But I never did and neither did my sisters, for the most part
    Even though we put in long hours as co-captain
    Taking turns to Barrow and Wainwright, and Golovan

    Safair, Wiens and Kotzebue Flying – it didn’t matter. We felt safe - long as Dad was flying.

    I think I got shy in Selawik and all the other villages long ago
    When they’d come to meet the plane, peer in the windows at us like we were aliens curious.
    Just checking to see who’d come in,

    Dad, you’d join the throng and share the day, oblivious
    At home in every village.

    Never felt that passion for engines, terrain and planes.
    You taught plenty though .
    Some I’d heard of and some we never
    knew, quietly sitting beside you in that Cessna 207
    following start up procedures you could do in your sleep,
    as you had to do, once the strokes came and they had to deny you
    soaring time.

    Topographic maps and airplane photos –
    your apartment looked like ground zero for plans to –
    only you in your retreating mind knew:

    Goin’ to Kobuk … gonna go mining. You wanna follow?
    Only in those dreams, Dad.

    Cigarettes and coffee fueled you then – something to hang on to, sharing stories with whoever showed an interest…and a few who didn’t.

    Trying to take off with too heavy a load …You can’t do it, Rod…
    Drop some of yer bottled pop – No way!
    Inching skyward!

    CloudDancer in that white leather belt! Captain **** to those in the seat and on the radio. Tom Lehe, much more quiet – both good pilots.
    Loved you like sons and proved it.

    Walker, Thompson, and Leroy …Mungnuk, Bernie, and Cliff…all a part of the past lit up by your glorious stories.

    Searching for Googy and Russ was your shining hour, though you didn’t talk much bout it.
    Never gave up, searched forever…long after hope had left us. Thank you, Dad. For a life well-lived.


    Me too Rod. Thanks................CD
    A SUPERIOR pilot, uses his or her SUPERIOR judgement, to stay out of situations which may require the use of their SUPERIOR skills.

  2. #2
    skagwaypilot's Avatar
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    Jan 2004
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    Cloudy.. Thanks for sharing that wonderful tribute.

    The skills he taught now live in the pilots who knew him. They will be passed on to future generations, and the tribute will continue.



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