In Remembrance of Bob Wofford
Well people, if you're reading this, then I must have gone on to my reward. I wanted to try and get a few words out about my life while I was still functional and have my wife finish it up for me after the event. I'm not going into my life's story in detail, but would like to hit a few details. I feel that I have had everything I ever wanted and I'm ready for this next great adventure. What ever it turns out to be. My profession has always been my passion, so will stay with that for the most part. I guess everything really started going right for me when I was with Air America. I had been with them about three years when I met my present wife, Terry. This was in July of 1968. I was showing her around the flight line in Vientiane, Laos and she shot this picture of me that I thought has always personified how I felt about myself. It was entirely candid, I just happened to look up as another aircraft was taxing by to respond to a wave from the copilot. My position was just coincidental. Terry and I were married a couple of months into the new year of 1969 in Thailand just across the river from Vientiane. The High Sheriff over there did the honors and I guess he did a good job as at this point, we have been together for over thirty eight years. Don't know what I would have done without this wonderful woman who managed to keep me on track even though I strayed off a number of times.
Air America lasted until the end of 1972 for me. At that time I thought it time to bail out and go back to the land of the big PX and get into something else. I don't mean to imply by this last paragraph that life before Air America was bad, but that's when things started to go in the direction that I always imagined that I wanted to go. Before this, I was married to two good women. It was just unfortunate that the union was built on rocky ground and just didn't take. I was married to Esther, my first wife for four years and had a daughter by her in 1957. My second marriage to Sharon lasted about the same amount of time and I had a son and daughter by her. When I went overseas to my job with Air America, Sharon didn't feel that this would be any place to raise kids and decided not to join me. In view of all other considerations, I have to say, she probably did the right thing. In any event, both of these people gave me four good years of their lives and I want to give them full credit for contributing generously to my life.
Always had my sights on becoming a Tanker Pilot, so in the early spring of 1973 I started beating the bush for a seat. With my background of low level flying and drop work in South East Asia, I was hired to fly a PV2 and started out on a contract back east. I flew for Aero Union and T & G Aviation for the next eleven years. This picture was taken in 1980 while on a fire behind Andy Anderson out of Wenatchee, WA. I was flying T-33 for T & G at that time.
As much as I enjoyed tanker work, I really wanted to fly the big jets, so in 1983, I left the tanker business for good. (I thought) For the next thirteen years I flew mostly DC-8's and did a lot of international flying. God, how I enjoyed that. I think that eleven years from 1984 to my mandatory retirement in late 1994 was the most satisfying flying of my career. I was very active during the first Gulf War and the picture here was taken at an award ceremony for the pilots that flew missions into different places in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. October of 1994 was a sad year for me. I turned sixty and had to retire from part 121 flying. I helped put together a part 125 operation out of Ypsilanti, MI flying automotive parts in DC-8's. So was able to continue flying 8's for another couple of years until I got tired of living half a month at a time in Michigan and waiting around for automotive parts to arrive for shipment to god knows where.
So again, I decided to move on to the next phase of my life. RETIREMENT, what a disgusting word. I tried it for a few months up to about August of 1996, but it just didn't take. I put the word out that I was looking to get back into the fire business. H & P (Gene Powers) called me right away and put me into the C-97 that was down here from Alaska and needed a co-pilot. I flew with Bob West for a couple of weeks of very intensive flying, about forty hours, mostly out of Battle Mountain, NV. We were released from contract and went back to Greybull, WY and Gene asked me stay around to get typed and fly relief the following year in Alaska. I told him that I didn't think the C-97 and I would get along very well, but thanked him for the offer and we parted on good terms. Flew relief for ARDCO the following year and flew for what is now International Aviation the next.
In 1999, I was offered a job with Neptune Aviation and flew with them for the next six years until we were shut down by the Forest Service in 2004. I would have turned seventy at the finish of that contract year had it not been for the shut down. As it turns out, I guess my official retirement date was July of 2004. I have to say, that going with Neptune turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. I enjoyed my time there and working with all the people at Neptune. I had a great aircraft, T-11, flew a lot and made enough money to enjoy retirement. At this time I think I was ready. I had developed some problems in my bum while flying on contract during the season of 2003 and when I finally got it looked at, it was too late and the only solution was removal of my rectum and putting me on a colostomy. Not too bad, some inconveniences, but livable with. As it turned out, I had colon/rectal cancer, but at that time it wasn't bothering me and I was fully recovered by the time we started our training in Missoula that winter and early spring. I certainly intended to fly a contract or work as a management pilot for the 2004 season, but the shut down stopped that.
I took up soaring as a retirement hobby and occupation. That was a lot of fun and as soon as I got my commercial endorsement I was put to work towing and later giving rides. In August of 2004, Terry and I moved to Prescott, AZ and I joined the soaring club here. They use a winch launch system and it's a blast. Must be the closet thing to a carrier launch you can come to in civil aviation.
Everything was going great when the cancer reared its ugly head and started to put me down in October of 2004, only a few months after making the move up here. By the time I had my seventieth birthday, I was no longer able to function well enough to be active at the glider port and had to give it up. A month later I was bed ridden with pain and other problems. It was a rough winter, but I think even tougher for Terry as she had to carry the whole load, drive me to Scottsdale everyday for radiation or chemo. I eventually recovered enough that I could enjoy life's simple pleasures.
Terry and I enjoy eating out and I can drive comfortably and get around on my own. I have limitations that I have had to learn to live with, but can't complain. Have had a great seventy-one years now and have a lovely home to enjoy. This was the best move we ever made. The climate is perfect year around and we have great views from almost every window. There were a series of miracles that had to happen for us to get into this place, but they all did happen and here we are.
I can look back on a career that spanned almost forty-six years. I'm ready to face what ever the future holds, no regrets and no fears. Terry will add to this after the final event, but I just wanted to let a few people know how I feel and I how much I have appreciated knowing you.
(Bob Wofford died on April 27, 2006)
From Terry Wofford
The love of my life departed on his last great adventure on April 27, 2006, at 1.36 in the afternoon.
Bob terminated all treatments in early January, preferring whatever time was left to be quality time. He handled the challenges of this terrible disease with courage, dignity and a sense of humor that never left him. His greatest concern was for me and those he cared about.
Bob lived his life to the fullest. His departure was typical of the way he lived. On his terms. Fearlessly. Ready for whatever lies ahead.