By Pat Maurer
The plane that brought a lot of joy to one Clare pilot and his family will now provide the means, or some of the means for another person to learn to fly.
The 1958 Piper Tri-Pacer that belonged to Clark A. Reynolds, who died suddenly two years ago, is being donated by his widow and family to Northwestern Michigan College’s Aviation Program.
The plane, owned and flown by Clark since 1989, was disassembled and taken to NMC last week, where it will be auctioned off in November and the money used to fund a “Clark A. Reynolds Memorial Scholarship” at the school.
“That plane was so dear to my husband’s heart,” said Ruth Reynolds, “gifting it to the college is one thing he would have loved, and it will give me peace.” She said she would never have gotten a degree if it wasn’t for the scholarships she earned while attending Mid Michigan Community College. “Now we can use his plane to help someone else get an education.”
She said when she and her son were going through some of the equipment on the family farm, she had the idea to donate Clark’s plane. She googled aviation schools and Northwestern Michigan was the “first one to pop up,” she said. “I sent them an email and a week and a half later they called and we made all the arrangements.”
Ruth said her husband Clark fell in love with flying when he piloted a helicopter for the 101st Airborn in Viet Nam. “Of course the missions were terrible, but he discovered he absolutely loved flying, and when he came home he wanted to continue to fly.” She said he got his pilot’s license and his first Piper around 1985. “He even got a gift certificate for me to ‘solo’, which I was very unwilling to do. I did finally learn to fly and I did solo, but I never did get a license. I just loved to ride along.”
She continued, “We have many, many great memories. We flew all over Michigan over the years. In 1990 or 1991 we even flew as a family to the Piper Convention in Georgia. That was a long trip, but very exciting.”
The Reynolds all enjoyed that plane; Clark’s second Piper, it was purchased in 1989, Ruth said. “It was a family adventure and he (Clark) absolutely loved that airplane. We had a wonderful marriage, but sometimes I think I came in second to that plane…” The couple were married for 41 years. Clark first flew out of the Clare Municipal Airport and later built a runway on the family farm and kept the plane hangared there.