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Frank Lilly - Midwest Soaring Association
August 2, 1924 – September 24, 1998
Frank passed away peacefully in his sleep. He was at Grain Valley the day before he died, there were no indications of any problems.
Many of us had known Frank for years, some of us only months. Regardless, all of us have been affected by our contact with Frank in one way or another. We were towed (constantly), trained, checked, and humored by Frank. We got the latest movie reviews, not from the Kansas City Star’s movie critic, but from a person who viewed movies "like the rest of us". We got the first review and synopsis of the latest Tom Clancy novel or other book that he was reading. And always the latest on the world of aviation in general, and soaring in particular.
His enthusiasm never diminished. I remember when, shortly after Frank had refinished the 1-26, Soaring had an article on the effect of turbulators on this ship. Within a week, we had turbulators on our 1-26. Any technical article was fair game for discussion and dissection. Winglets, probes, instruments were all discussed and cussed. In 1997 Frank went back to "school" and became our CFIG, and inherited the dubious honor of trying to fit his tall frame into the back seat of the 2-22. No glory there, but I think that those Frank transitioned and trained gave him a tremendous sense of achievement as he turned them loose on their first solo in a sailplane. His check rides got us thinking of subjects long buried and covered with dust. I studied for hours to memorize the new (to me) airspace designations because I knew he would ask about these. And of course, he did, along with weight and balance and towrope strength calculations.
Frank policed the hangar, inspected the towropes, kept our equipment airworthy, and maintained the logbooks. He accomplished things that none of us could have completed as individuals.
And his legacies. Frank, we could never have repaid you for your effort and work on beautiful 1-26 and stunning 2-22 (which I don’t think has any peer as the nicest example of it’s type flying). Your tireless work has left us with two ships that will carry us well into the new millennium.
But that is the tangible legacy of Frank. There are the intangibles. The (sometimes forceful) coaching and guidance, the knowledge passed on to us that he drew from his reservoir of experience. Camaraderie. Friendship.
On the day of Frank’s visitation, there were towering cu’s building in all quadrants. It was the type of day that he would have enjoyed, from his early noon prognostication of what the day would hold, the analysis of winds, shear, inversions, and why there was always a blue hole over Grain Valley. On this day, I could imagine Frank assembling his Sisu, and launching for a six-hour flight. The Sisu was an exceptional sailplane, and there weren’t many of them built. Frank was an exceptional person, and there are not many like him.
A Personal Remembrance of Frank Lilly
by Patrick Cummins
Frank Lilly was more than a friend to me. I did not know my grandfathers, but I Frank was the best grandfather this aviation student could ever hope to have.
Frank was a very demanding person and pilot. He expected the club members to "fly smart" and be safe pilots. Frank was very comfortable telling you when you screwed up, and there was never any doubt as to what he had to say, or how he felt. But, he dealt with everyone in our club the same way for the same reasons: He wanted to make sure that everyone would stay alive, and that the club equipment would not be damaged. There were two sides to Frank. The other side was a man who would bend over backwards for you, or make you laugh with a joke, or just sit around on those overcast days and talk about books, airplanes and life. Despite his exterior, he was a man I found to be accessible. We all saw through the tough exterior to the tenderhearted man that made our club go for so many years.
Frank was both the center and circumference of the day-to-day operations of the Midwestern Soaring Associations. He managed the equipment, hangar, repairs, tow plane and activity. Frank also knew everyone at every airport within two hundred miles (this often was handy when the club needed help with something).
Frank's relationships were built over time. He lived in Missouri for most of his life, and had over seventeen thousand hours of air time in fifty-five years of flying. What stands out to me, is his commitment to something he loved so very much. Soaring was a pastime which became more than an avocation; for Frank it was a way of life.
Frank was a way of life for the members of the Midwest Soaring Association. We came to rely heavily on Frank's judgment, influence and abilities. The real evidence of his presence in our club can be seen in the efforts so many are making to pick up the slack left in all the areas Frank so deftly handled. We all respected him as a pilot, and more importantly as a human being.
Personally, there are two things which meant the most about Frank to me. I could trust him all the time, and I could count on him to be himself.