June 2015          Jeff Chappell

The Good: Hopefully most of you know about our 40-year reunion coming up, 8-10 October 2015. The planning committee, headed by Jeff Hackett, is working hard and has a good core of guys, but still seeking volunteers for class gift, fundraising, banquet entertainment, registration, security, widows/surviving children coordination, prep school grad event, and non-graduate classmate coordination. Stay tuned to AOG and your squadron reps for updates.

The Bad (but getting better): Bruce Fritzsche forwarded the following note from Jack Barton's daughter, Shannon: Monday morning (2 Mar) my mom found my dad unresponsive. They took him to Olive Branch Methodist. The CT scan showed no sign of stroke but given his symptoms they called the Brain Attack Team. He was airlifted to Methodist University, where they discovered he did have a stroke, with a clot in his basilar artery. The doctor removed the clot, restoring blood flow to his brain. He is very very lucky because from what we hear many people don't make it through a stroke like this. Please continue to pray for our daddy...he needs it right now. God has a special plan for him! He continues to show great signs of improvement. Moving both arms and legs. Speaks very faint and is hard to understand. They are worried about his vision and speech. We are all in shock and still can't believe this has happened to someone so healthy and active! Update Apr 20: Dad has been home for almost two weeks now. He is definitely happier at home. We are all settling in to the new schedule. He goes to therapy at the Olive Branch hospital 3 times a week, and then on Thursdays they go downtown for eye therapy. He had a great visit with his sister this week, and an old Air Force Academy friend, Frank, has stopped by several times while he's been in town training. He still is wearing the heart monitor–he has about 2 more weeks with it. After a full month they send it back and make an appointment to get the results. He hasn't complained of any new symptoms so hopefully this is a good sign.

Gary Helds ex-wife, Kathy, notified Bill Estelle that Gary had a heart attack a few weeks ago. After a week, he stabilized and went in for a bypass and valve replacement. Valve replacement was a success; they opted not to do the bypass. He has been improving slowly. He had a pacemaker put in and may be released from the hospital within the week.

Rumors of Bill Lyerly’s demise are greatly exaggerated: Bill sounded great on the phone, has lost 50 pounds, retired from his high-powered DHS job, and is progressing well with cardiac rehabilitation. Cowboy Awtrey, John Charlton, Al Bready, and Hugo Posey have stopped by my house here in Annapolis to help maintain my morale (maybe I also owed them money...), and Dave Hickman called to give me advice from his experience with triple bypass surgery. I very much appreciate all of the various well wishes that I received from numerous other 75ers. Every day on this side of the grass is a great day!

The Ugly: Sorry, there’s only good-looking people in this section. John Charlton reported on the annual DC Dark Ages Party: We had about 50 folks participate. This was the first sighting of Carlson in about a year. I think he is finally over the twin-baby hump and may get re-energized in class affairs once more. Photos from the party show Rick Pyatt, Andy Dichter, Bill Davis, Jerry Manthei, Muddy Waters, Joe May, and Bob “Cowboy” Awtrey.

Fred "Vark" Weems sent an update on his post-retirement activities, sure to make us all jealous and anxious to join him: I retired from the left seat of the 767 at American Airlines in September of 2012. Best decision ever! Loving retirement. I get checks (including SS, I'm really officially old now) from a number of entities that are meant to insure that I do not ever again show up for work. Summer 2013, I went off to Xidian University in Xi'an, China, for a year of language study. Had a great time, and now I can reliably speak the most terrible Chinese ever, in two delicious flavors, Mandarin and Cantonese. I am highly qualified to teach bad habits in several languages now. For now I spend my time in my recording studio, scoring the music for a new ballet I'm creating called Dark Fairy. Pretty girls dancing, what a concept! Some of my dancers made a special T-shirt for me, on the front of which is written Official Dirty Old Man. I wear it proudly. Dawn, my wife of 40 years now, is an ER Doc enjoying some time off between jobs. We'll be looking to move up to the great northwest sometime in the near future.

Bill Murray recently visited Buck Buchanan with Chad Hennings (USAFA ’88) in Dallas. Buck was Equipment Manager for football at the Prep School. He retired a SMSgt in the Air Force and immediately got hired by Tom Landry and the Dallas Cowboys where he worked for another 20 years as their Equipment Manager. When he retired from the Cowboys, his son, Buckey, took over his job. You won’t meet anyone more genuine, nice or sincere than Buck Buchanan–he’s a one-in-a-million guy! He’s struggling with health issues right now and will probably never leave this facility, but many at USAFA owe him a debt of gratitude, most of all me!

Ken Finn has been flying 767s out of ATL to Europe and South America for the past 16 years, about to join the Empty Nester’s Club as his last daughter marries next year.

From Mark “Flying Squirrel” Holmes: I’d taken up jet packing for my 60th and ended up on a magazine cover (Positively Aware). Still doing that, but wanted something new for my 61st birthday and decided to take up skydiving. I decided to get out of the plane into the air itself and see what that offered. I’ve hooked up since with Raider Ramstad, who’s the Eagle to my Fledgling and has been jumping since the Academy and has too many jumps to count. I went to a DZ north of here to watch him and 69 other skydivers between 60 and 85 go for a world record formation of seventy skydivers. I came out to the truck and found a note on the windshield with the words “Fast Neat Average…Class of ’16…we’re camped behind you”. Turns out four cadets took their spring break camping at the drop zone and flying for a week there. I didn’t get the chance to fly with them but did meet up and plan to have dinner at Mitch’s during the reunion at their table. The long blue line continues!

Bill Estelle published some great photos of our Legacy Class of 2015’s 100 Night banquet–see them and other juicy tidbits at 75bestalive.org. Until next time, keep smiling!


DC Dark Ages Party
Rick Pyatt, Andy Dichter, Bill Davis, & Jerry Manthei


DC Dark Ages Party
Muddy Waters, Joe May, & Cowboy Awtreyi


Holmes & Ramstad



1. Ben Bosma: Samuel Ryals and I flew from Dayton to St. Louis where we picked up Barry Abbott. We then continued our journey to Olive Branch, Mississippi to visit our classmate, Jack Barton for lunch. Frank Dubuisson met us there for a swell time together. We stayed for a few hours and flew back tonight, dropping Barry off on the way. It was an amazing day of time spent with good friends of 40 plus years. Jack is a miracle man! I feel blessed and privileged to have made this little trip. Sally is a rockstar caregiver. He's in good hands. (June 2015)

2. Ralph Paul: Last Thursday [4 June], over 30 members of the United States Air Force Academy Class of '75 gathered to celebrate the 40th anniversary of our graduation. It was great seeing so many of my classmates! '75 BEST ALIVE!!!  (June 2015)

3. Dan & Elizabeth Burkett in Algund, Italy. (Melissa Casillas Flores, June 2015)

4. Max Della Pia and son John. (June 2015) 




5. Dave & Sharon Myers hiking the high country. (Sharon Myers, June 2015)

6. Tony Mahoney: Chauffeur for Prom 2015. (April 2015)

7. Barry & Gladys Abbott with their family. (June 2015)

8. Don & Debbie Henney with son Daniel, just graduated with his MBA from the University of Texas, Austin. (Debbie Henney, May 2015)




9. Tom Barbera with sons Daniel (left) & Tim. (June 2015)

10. Tom Barbera: This picture was taken on the occasion of the swearing in of son Daniel USAFA 2015 (our Legacy Class). Dan is now a sophomore at the USUHS med school in DC. Col Jim Kelley is a retired O6 living in Colorado Springs – a long standing friend from Anne and my days at Wiesbaden Hospital in Germany where we all met. Jim was pararescue, the senior CRNA in the Air Force. We practiced together and he was Dan's sponsor thru his 4 years at USAFA. (June 2015)

11. Kurt Bock & daughter Rebecca. (Rebecca Bock, June 2015)

12. Bill Murray & Ben Bosma at Fatback's BBQ. (Ben Bosma, June 2015)




13. Jim & Emily Marshall and family (Kelly Marshall Vannoy, May 2015)

14. Ric Lewallen with his grandchildren, also the bus driver for the last day of school. (Elizabeth Landry, June 2015)

15. Otto Dieffenbach & family. (May 2015)

16. Joe Marksteiner (Left) with the International Powerlifting Federation in Salo, Finland. (June 2015)



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