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Special EAA Surprise for WWII Vet

  • B-17 flight
    B-17 tour crewmember Janet Hartwig helps John Tarabula with his new B-17 jacket with John’s wife Amelia and their daughter, Cindy Post.
  • B-17 flight
    John Tarabula, left, meets B-17 pilot Scott Hartwig.
  • B-17 flight
    Here is the telegram proposal John sent to Amelia from overseas in 1945.
  • B-17 flight
    EAA staff bought a cake for John and Amelia Tarabula’s anniversary.

October 23, 2014 - Sixty-nine years ago, John and Amelia Tarabula of Gainesville, Georgia, tied the knot after he returned from serving his country in World War II. Enlisting after Pearl Harbor, John served as a ball turret gunner on a B-17 bomber with the 457th Bomb Group, 749th Bomb Squadron. After his final mission, which ended in a crash, John sent a telegram to Amelia asking for her hand in marriage. They were wed shortly after he got back from overseas, and next spring the couple will mark 70 years of marriage.

When the couple’s daughter, Cindy Post, told EAA membership services staff members about this special story, they came up with an idea to honor the Tarabulas in a special way. First, the couple was offered a flight aboard EAA’s Aluminum Overcast B-17 at its Lawrenceville, Georgia, tour stop on Thursday, October 23. The stop is being hosted this weekend by EAA Chapter 690 at Gwinnett County Airport - Briscoe Field.

John, now 92, turned down the flight, explaining to pilot Scott Hartwig that he promised Jesus after surviving the plane crash that he would never fly again. He kept the promise, but Amelia did go on the flight along with their son and a grandchild.

EAA Membership Services Representative Andy Ovans suggested they get an anniversary cake, and teammate Chris Henry got on the horn and located a local Lawrenceville bakery, Special Kneads and Treats, which employs a number of special needs individuals. Before Henry got off the phone, the EAA membership staff had already passed the hat to cover the cost of the cake.

Arrangements were made with the local FBO, Gwinnett Aero, to pick up the cake and roll it out as Aluminum Overcast taxied in from the flight. John and Amelia’s family members also appeared to complete the anniversary surprise.

Adding some icing to the cake, EAA’s merchandise department staff provided a B-17 jacket for John and a B-17 necklace for Amelia.

“I cannot explain just how proud I am to be a member of this team and the staff here at EAA,” Henry said.

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