Wednesday, September 15, 2010

That Damn Yankee

Somewhere, way upstairs, Forrest Pitcher will be smiling on October 9.

Mr. Pitcher was my grandfather and he passed away on April 30, 2005 at the age of 96. Just six months prior to his passing, he had to endure the heartache of his adored Yankee Air Museum in Willow Run being ravaged by fire.

The date was October 9, 2004, and the museum's hangar caught on fire, destroying eight aircraft and thousands of artifacts, along with tools. While most of the museum's collection survived, the fire essentially put an end to the tours and day-to-day operations.

That's where my grandfather comes in.

Forrest Pitcher, well into his 90s, conducted guided tours of the museum. I took my family on one such jaunt not long before the fire, and what a treat it was---not only to see the museum's unbelievable collection of air and military history, but to be guided by my grandfather and our daughter's great-grandfather.

On October 9, the Yankee Air Museum will re-open to the public---six years to the day after the fire. The new Collections and Exhibit building will have an Inaugural Gala to celebrate.

I can see grandpa's smile as I type this.


This was the scene at Yankee Air Museum on October 9, 2004


Few people had a sense of history as firmly handled as my grandfather. Hell, he WAS history! The man was a walking encyclopedia of knowledge, folklore, and anecdotes.

The volunteer tour guide gig at Yankee was right up his alley. He was like a pig in slop, escorting folks through the museum and bending their ears about the artifacts and the stories behind them.

Grandpa was a plumber for Ford Motor Company but that's not WHO he was---it was what he did. He and grandma---she's still living and is 94---enjoyed traveling, sometimes as far away as Spain. They pretty much did most of the United States, pulling a trailer and camping all over the country.

They'd winter in Texas or Florida, before moving back to the Detroit area full time circa 1993.

For nearly 20 years (1976-93), after moving from the Wayne-Westland area, they owned a modest home about 50 miles west of Marquette in the Upper Peninsula, which was playfully coined "Pitcher's Paradise."

Grandpa gave guided tours up there, too.

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