110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
DeLand son helps mother 'slip the surly bonds of Earth' on final flight
By Pat Andrews
posted Feb 25, 2014 - 3:53:12pm
Finding just the right way to pay final tribute to a beloved parent isn't always easy. In the case of Grace McElvy Whitecar of DeLand, who died in 2011 at the age of 87, just the right tribute came nearly three years after her death.
Her son, Michael Boyd of DeLand, took Whitecar's cremains for a Valentine's Day flight Feb. 14, and scattered her ashes over the Atlantic Ocean.
Boyd qualified as an aircraft-carrier pilot 50 years ago, flying over the Gulf of Mexico from the USS Lexington. Whitecar, who loved adventure, shared his love of the skies, and became a licensed pilot. She was also an avid boater who loved the water, so scattering her ashes at 1,300 feet above the ocean off the coast of Canaveral National Seashore combined both of her passions.
Boyd had planned a Jan. 30 "Ultimate Barnstormer" flight in History Flight's North American AT-6, a two-seat trainer, to mark the 50th anniversary of his carrier qualification. When bad weather postponed that flight, Boyd's wife, Jeannie, suggested the Valentine’s Day tribute to Boyd’s mother.
For nearly three years, they had been undecided about where to scatter Whitecar's remains.
The Valentine Day's flight was the perfect solution, Boyd said. The flight "grew into something more noteworthy and much more poignant" than he had anticipated, he said.
"Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of … Put out my hand and touched the face of God."
Magee was a young U.S. aviator killed in England during World War II.
Boyd met History Flight pilot John Makinson at the DeLand Municipal Airport, and they took to the skies.
Makinson had arranged a surprise for Boyd: a two-plane honor escort for Whitecar's final flight — another Texan and a T-34.
The planes flew over Brandywine twice so Jeannie could see them, and then they headed for the coast south of New Smyrna Beach.
The escort planes broke off, and Boyd and Makinson went through some rolls and loops in the high-performance trainer. Boyd performed some of them himself, a strangely familiar feeling after more than 50 years since his Navy flying days, Boyd said.
Boyd piloted the craft back to DeLand, after a 1.2-hour flight. Makinson wrote in Whitecar’s flight log: "Left up in the sky @ 1300' soaring with the angels."
Whitecar lived at Good Samaritan Florida Lutheran for the last seven years or so of her life. She had also lived in Leesburg, Tampa and Arcadia.
In addition to Boyd and his wife, Jeannie Boyd, she is survived by daughter Julia Jennings of Tampa, husband David F. Desmond of DeLand, and four grandchildren.
See more photos and a video of the Valentine's Day flight at Michael Boyd's blog, Confessions of a Canine Couch Potato, which Boyd helps his dog, Buddy, write.
Read Buddy's story, "A DeLand dog goes from life on the lam to the lap of luxury" online at here at The Beacon.
NOTE: Beacon staff writer Pat Hatfield Andrews also went on a barnstorming flight in a vintage Texan with History Flight pilot John Makinson in April 2008. Watch the video of that flight at here at The Beacon.
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