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Chapter 227 50th Anniversary Celebration in Waterloo, Iowa

By Chris Roberts

November 2015- What better way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Chapter 227 than in the huge Livingston hangar with Richard Shepherd’s glorious fall displays! About 70 people joined the fun and brought delicious food to share. The personal stories from our chapter’s early days were so touching, they brought a tear to the eye. In addition, an EAA delegation from Oshkosh flew in just to celebrate our special evening.

As we met their plane, the EAA crew of five greeted us, and Charlie Becker handed over a Crock-Pot full of his award-winning four-alarm chili, saying, “It’s a potluck after all!” The EAA group included Brett Hahn, Rick Larsen, Charlie Becker, Kyle Voltz, and pilot Dick Hanusa. As we walked in the hangar door, Brett looked around at our setup and displays and said, “Wow, you just can’t write this stuff!” EAA also brought a large banner to commemorate 227’s 50th, which we immediately hung on the hangar door.

As we caught up with each other, many investigated the Chapter 227 history table, displaying the Chapter Charter Certificate and original binder of the founding members and first president, Jim Lyon, and an array of pictures of past events and awards. Food was abundant and delicious. After the meal, we photographed the anniversary cake with the five from EAA, who enthusiastically served it to the membership because, as they said, “Your chapter members are the true heroes.”

Several members shared personal stories from the past: stories of when and how their passion for aviation got started, stories of their relationships with EAA and Chapter 227, and stories of new beginnings. 

Dick Poppe spoke of his first airplane ride in a 1947 Cessna 140. His fascination with aviation and inspiring relationship with pilot Harold White changed his life forever. Dick and Harold were together through thick and thin. They were there for each other during the hard times and their bond grew stronger. That particular plane sat in a hangar for some time, so Dick and Harold decided to restore it. They brought it up to date and Dick polished it to its original sheen. The plane turned heads wherever they went.

In 2002, Dick bought the plane from Harold, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s. Dick stayed by Harold’s side, continuing to fly together until Harold’s death in 2004. The plane received the People’s Choice Award from the International Cessna 120-140 Association in 2006 and again in 2007, AirVenture’s Outstanding Cessna 120/140 Award in 2009, and the Lindbergh Trophy for the Best Class II (81-150 hp) in 2010. To this day, Dick embraces the plane as a tribute to Harold and their undying friendship.

For Matt Evers there were ”three tidbits that came to me that might be worth sharing, so here goes...

“The first one is that when I moved to town about 16 years ago, the first EAA Chapter 227 member I met was Dallas Aldredge, out at Flyers Field in Washburn. He introduced me to the chapter and I became a member. He lived and breathed aviation, and told me many of his stories—one was how he as a kid got to meet Lindbergh, and how special that obviously was to him. He also showed me his workshop, where he built his Taylor Monoplane. He was a great inspiration to all those around him.

“The second one is how being involved in an EAA chapter exposes you to new things. I was talking to a co-worker the other day after he helped at our Young Eagles rally, trying to explain what aviation was all about. While showing him what I fly, I mentioned that being a part of EAA could help one experience many different types of aircraft, which is beneficial for many reasons, especially for those planning to eventually purchase one. While I said that, I had no idea how many different types or models I’ve experienced in my life. So I tallied them up one evening and the total came to 39, which surprised me. Had it not been for EAA, the total would likely have been around five, which is likely typical for many non-EAAers. These experiences really helped me become a wiser aircraft purchaser/owner.

“The third one is how being involved in an EAA chapter opens doors in your life. Ten years ago at Oshkosh, Krista Nelson from the chapter took me down to the Vintage volunteer booth to sign up. They had me working on the Vintage flightline, and on Saturday I was stationed at Classic Point. It was there that I met my future wife, who was also volunteering on the flightline. I found out she was also a pilot and enjoyed aviation. We’ve enjoyed EAA and aviation together ever since, and have been further blessed with two children—one who’s already a good back-seat flyer, and the other who is warming up to noisy airplanes.”

Dave Dunn shared, “When I would hear ultralights approaching my house, I would run outside to watch them fly over. Curiosity got the best of me and I started hanging around the airport, watching and waiting for an opportunity to ask questions. Taking their advice, I attended AirVenture 1994 at Oshkosh and it was there that I joined EAA. At the time, it looked like the only way to be able to afford an airplane was to build one. A few weeks later at a Chapter 227 event, Barbara Pershing asked if I was a member of Chapter 227 and I said no. I was soon approached by Carl Campbell, the membership chairman, and before I knew it, I was a member of Chapter 227. Actually, at the next meeting I told everyone how Carl twisted my arm to get me to join. I don’t think he will ever let me live that down.

“My work schedule prevented me from attending a lot of meetings, but the EAA Chapter 227 annual Christmas party was one event that was not to be missed. A nice dinner and something called a Chinese gift exchange brings back the childhood thrill of opening a gift that someone bought for you. The only caveat is the person opening the gift might not be able to keep the gift if someone else wants it. Exchanges get interesting, but in the end, everyone has fun and gets to go home with a gift. After a few years I realized that it was not a good idea to try to build an airplane when I didn’t even know how to fly one. I started taking flying lessons and a year later I had a pilot’s license, and a realization that what I thought I wanted to build was something I really didn’t want.

“After being a member of Chapter 227 for 21 years, I have learned that although flying an airplane can be exciting and a lot of fun, there is something even more important: the people.”

Marv Hoppenworth also spoke of the importance that EAA has had in his life and how his pedal planes have introduced the next generation to aviation.

Rick Larsen stood up and spoke about EAA’s renewed spirit of going back to when chapters were more empowered rather than the most recent top-down philosophy. This new plan will enable chapters to influence the policies and programs they need to grow. Brett Hahn was very generous in thanking the chapter for our energy and the success of our recent events. He went on to say that Chapter 227’s extraordinary efforts have certainly gotten the attention of EAA.

Charlie Becker brought a copy of Sport Aviation from April 1965 that introduced the new Chapter 227 to the world. The magazine also mentions that Marv was the fourth lifetime member of EAA. To his surprise, Marv recognized the cover photo; his recollection of details from 50 years ago impressed us all. Brett, Rick, and Charlie presented a stunning 50th anniversary plaque to the chapter and took a picture with the current and former chapter officers.

It was truly a special evening. Thank you to everyone for bringing great food and helping set up and clean up afterwards; to Richard Shepherd for his fabulous displays and allowing us to take them home; to Livingston Aviation for allowing us to take over their hangar and polishing it up for the celebration; and to the folks from EAA for flying in to help us celebrate, bringing chili, honoring the chapter for our achievements, and for their support that night and throughout the year.

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