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Louis A. Grondal - In Memoriam

February 7, 1934 - October 16, 1998
Newtown, CT.

Member of SSA and Nutmeg Soaring Association, New Milford, CT.

Louis A. Grondal died in his home with his wife Linda DeMarco at his side on October 16, 1998 after a year-long encounter with cancer.

Louis spent most of his youth (age 5-10, or so) in German-occupied Belgium, where life went on despite the war. This is where his love of aircraft began, as the German and American fighters, bombers, and rockets were constantly flying over his home. He loved to watch, much to the dismay of his mother, who made him wear a pot on his head to protect him from shrapnel! Late in his teens, Louis became a Belgian Paratrooper. He actually wanted to be a pilot, but it was not an option without a college education. He did parachute, though, and spent time in the Belgian Congo (Zaire).

Louis then became a TOP cable-control model airplane pilot, specializing in stunt and acrobatics. He, and his re-designed model of the Aldrich Nobler (the Grondal Nobler) remain famous both in Europe and the U.S. to this day. He won the European Championships in 1959, 1961 and 1963, and was a two-time World champion in 1960 (Budapest) and 1962 (Moscow). They were held every 2 years. He went to technical school at night and became an excellent tool and die maker, which brought him to the U.S. on a green card visa in 1965. He continued to fly here, at first with control-line, and then with radio-control aircraft, but avoided the competition scene due to family and work commitments.

Finally, in 1990 he had the opportunity to join Nutmeg Soaring Association, then based in Great Barrington, MA. (shortly thereafter based in New Milford, CT. at Candlelight farms airport). He convinced his about-to-be fiancée Linda to do the same. His life-long dream of being a pilot was finally realized. He quickly advanced, instructed by the club's instructors, including numerous flights with Rudi Opitz, a United States Soaring Hall of Fame recipient. He also received his commercial certificate, and was planning to instruct. Louis' skills as a machinist were paramount to the survival of the club's equipment; there wasn't any problem he couldn't fix, build, or figure-out. When he wasn't doing that, he flew...and flew, traveling up and down the north- and southeast coast with fellow club members, whenever he could. His favorite places to fly, aside from Candlelight, was Springfield, VT., Mifflin Co., PA., Chilhowee and Sequatchie Soaring in TN. At the time of his death, he had over 1250 hours of glider time.

Louis owned two Speed Astirs, and most recently an ASW-24 (UC). Because of the difficulty rigging the Grob Speed Astir, Louis built a one-man rig (known as the Louie-rigger or Louie-Loader to many), which quickly became a hit with club members and others he encountered along his travels. He was able to make about 30 before he became ill.

He began competing in 1997, when he was ûforcedû to switch from Sports Class to Standard, which he promptly won. He achieved his Gold badge (10/95, # 2141) and Diamond badge (10/97, # 839), as well as the Lennie Pin (Symons I) all in the East Coast from NH to TN.

Despite his cancer diagnosis and expected demise, he and his wife Linda were able to travel to Florida for the 1998 Senior National Championships (his first National contest), were he quickly learned about the level of national expertise. He placed 25 of 38, improving every day. He then went on to the Sports Class Nationals in Mifflin Co., PA in May of 1998, were he continued to grow, finishing 18th. He even had a 6th place finish on one of the contest days. He was learning fast. Most people didn't know it, but Louis was actively receiving chemotherapy scheduled around these most important soaring events, and it was amazing to watch his positive attitude, fed mostly by his love, intensity and devotion to the art and sport of soaring.

He flew in June in Region I, placing a respectable 4th in a tough field. Shortly thereafter, his flying became hangar-flying, but he was still at the field, weekends and mid-week, giving encouragement to the students and newer cross-country pilots. He continued to give his wife tips and tricks to improve her cross-country flying as well. Just 10 days before his death, he helped find a problem with a jammed trim on the club's Super Cub.

Louis will always be remembered as a loving husband and best friend of Linda, as well as a devoted, enthusiastic and most courageous member of Nutmeg Soaring Association. A wonderful memorial service was held at Candlelight Farms Airport in tribute and celebration of his life.

For more information, contact the Nutmeg Soaring Association home page at http://members.home.net/donmalin/

Posted: 11/1/1998


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