Sunday, February 21, 2010

God Created The Eyes Of The Beholder

Photo Courtesy Of Airlee Owens

This weekend I took my wife, my daughter and our grandson to our cabin in Lake Tahoe not just because my grandson had been begging me to take him to the snow but because it's so beautiful there and I find it very tranquil as well. Yesterday while relaxing as I sat alone by my fireplace looking out my window at the snow covered mountains all around the lake I began thinking about my mother and her love of Bandon and it's beautiful ocean. That led me to thinking about Airlee and the same affection he shared for the same place. Then I remembered a scene from one of my favorite movies when Jack Nicholson read a letter Morgan Freeman had written to him just before he died and in it he said... "Our lives are streams flowing to the same river towards whatever Heaven lies in the mist beyond the falls. Find the joy in your life... Close your eyes and let the waters take you home."

It was then that I had a difficult time holding back the tears as I realized the same beauty I saw in the mountains outside my window was the same beauty God created for my mother and Airlee each of which gasped at it's infinite beauty.

From The Desk Of Gary Sands

Dear Family and Friends,

I take off early tomorrow on my trip to Cusco, Peru please be in prayer for me as I travel and my stay there. According to the weather report for Cusco for the time I will be there is either rain or showers, 50-60 degrees. So it wont be much different than being in Bandon.

When I talked to Airlee last month while I visited him I told him "I sure wish you were going with me", well I think he will be with me in spirit. So I look forward to getting out and doing some photography while I am in Cusco and the surrounding area. My plan is when I get back is to get all of my photos on disc and give a presentation, so be on the lookout for info on that. I will try to get CD's for the ones out of the area if they would like them.

My travel plans are to fly out 2/22/10 and return 3/10/10 I will not be home in time for Airlee's memorial, however I will be there in spirit.

Once again I thank each of you for the support that you gave: prayer & financial support which has made this trip possible for me.


Nothing More Precious Than The Love Of Family

Airlee and Sister Rosalie

Note From Gary Sands


My name is Gary Sands and Airlee was a very good friend to me and my photography mentor. I have published some of my photos with a company that Airlee and I used called My Publisher and I wrote a dedication page that I would like for you to put in the tribute to Airlee.

I had always wanted to take pictures and I did just that
"take pictures".
Starting with a Yashika Electro 35, I took pictures and developed black and white pictures while I was in the Army at Ft. Bragg, NC. but the camera got put into the closet and there it stayed. I then bought a Minolta 35mm and still just took pictures, you could say that I had the desire just not the passion. I guess that life just happened and I fell into just taking pictures, nothing special just pictures.

After Hurricane Katrina I went on a mission trip to Biloxi, MS. to help out with disaster relief. I knew that I wanted to document my trip after prompting from a friend of mine. He not only prompted me, he gave me one of his cameras, a Fuji S-7000, to take with me. He taught me by showing me how to take "photographs", I have gained so much from this mentor, he awoke the passion that I had some 40 years ago, but didn't know how to make it happen.

I thank my friend and mentor for everything he has done for me.

This book is a collection of photographs I have taken in 2007 and dedicate it to Airlee Owens, my friend and mentor.
Thank you for awakening the passion in me.


You can view my collection of photos at:
user name: ornat52
password: bandon

You are right about the Kid in Airlee. I saved for a year to take Airlee on a helicopter tour out of Newport, OR. Being the gentleman he was he let me go first and then it was his turn to board the craft., what joy he had on his face that day. The pilot had asked us if we wanted the door on or taken off and the delight in Airlees voice when he asked "we can really have it off" was priceless. The flight was great he even got to see whales from about 1000ft above them, needless to say he was excited.

Another photo outing to Crater Lake was a memory I will hold. We got up at 4:00am for the trip Airlee told me he would have stuff to eat so I didn't pack anything. So that day I learned to eat onion and tomato sandwiches on hamburger buns and wash it down with O'Doul's non alcoholic beer.

I will truly miss My Friend, he brought joy to my heart and stirred the passion within me. What a dear man, that touched my heart and soul.

Gary Sands

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Note From Bonnie Stephens

Great job on Airlee's page. I have many pictures also, taken by Airlee but I am sure you have the same. I will send you my favorites in case you don't have them. We loved him so much.

I was on his list and he sent me the best...or some of his best. FYI the Bandon hospital is having a pelican showing of the pictures locals have taken; if you want to take the prints to the hospital on March 1, from 10 until 2, they will be displayed at the showing from April 11 through June 30.

A Note From Colleen Brown

Airlee was in a class by himself. I can't say enough good about him. He had a heart of pure gold. I was looking through his photo's one time and fell in love with a butterfly pic and a blue rose. He had been playing around on the computer and turned the rose blue and I loved it so much he blew it up for me into about a 20 x 17 photo. I have had it hanging above my bed for years. The night he died.... the next morning when I got up I noticed the picture was crooked. That has NEVER happened before. It's practically glued to the wall so there's no way for it to move. Anyway I got on the computer and Rose had sent an e-mail saying he passed away that night. I was in shock, still am I think.

Airlee, I'm going to miss you like crazy. Was so looking forward to you coming home so I could see you and have a nice visit. I can't say enough about you. You were one of my best friends. You knew my love of birds and butterflies and always sent me your photo's. I have tons of them and have printed them out for my fam...ily to see. We had so many good talks and lots of laughs. You were one in a million. I remember one time when you came over to the house to help me with the computer and you asked me if I had spell check. I said I don't know, you said do you mind if I set it up for you? I said no go ahead, then couldn't contain myself another minute and had to laugh because I knew you knew I was a crappy speller and you were being very nice about it. That was you, a big gentle teddy bear of a man with a heart of gold. There is NO doubt in my mind I will see you again one day. I personally can't wait for that day to arrive!!! I will love you forever.

This is one of Airlee's videos...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Shelia... Airlee's Niece

Hi Gary,

Thank you so much for the blog you created for my uncle. It is truly amazing how many lives he has touched and how many people out there loved this man. I have a photo of Uncle Airlee and his children that he sent to me a few months ago. Would you please post it? I love this photo. I think everyone would enjoy seeing this photo of him when he was quite a bit younger. Thanks again, Gary.
Take care.


Airlee's fellow serviceman... Bradford Whipple

I barely knew Airlee but was instantly impressed with this bear of a man. In the RollCall site I called him a mountain of a man. I was a wannabe airborne intercept 203 from before enlisting in USAF. since I had a boyhood friend who had done this out of Turkey and he encouraged me to go for it. Bob "Slick" Keefe and Joel Fields were classmates of mine at Syracuse in 1956 and I tried to talk Fields into switching with me when we were both assigned to the 6911thRGM. He insisted on taking the Det#1 assignment and was shot down.

When I met Airlee at the September 2008 PWG reunion I sensed his dedication to the mission we all shared. I have two of his eagles in flight and for me they will remain prominently displayed in my log cabin in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Airlee left us too soon, RIP. Do svidaniye und auf Wiedersehen.


Brad Whipple sent these wonderful photos taken during the 50th Memorial of 60528 taken at Ft Meade on 09/02/2008. Thank You Brad.

Airlee painted and presented this to me at the 50th banquet

Son and grandson of one who died on 60528 with Larry Tart

Brad Whipple

Preparing for ceremony with 60528

Brad sent these wonderful photos taken during the 50th Memorial Ft Meade 09/02/2008

Prop Wash Gang Port Orford

WAG -1
June 18-20, 2004
Port Orford, Oregon
Left to right: Airlee Owens, Vic Calvo, Bud "Rosie" Rosenstrom, Rick Francona (front), Stan Poyas, Ron Kriegel (front), Bill White, Larry Lane (in whale riding gear), Jim Hensley, Larry Shuman
Not pictured: John Dixon

Final Rollcall (from Airlee's site)

Did you hear the sad news today?
Another "silent" warrior has passed away.
Called by the Supreme Commander over all.
Today he has made his final roll call.

Come fellow vets; let us reverently bow and pray
For our valiant comrade, who has fallen this day.
We'll drape his casket with a banner of beautiful hues,
Those glorious American colors: red, white and blue.

That star spangled banner he gallantly fought to defend,
Unyielding and undaunted, he fought to win.
He fought bravely and he passed the battle test.
Now the Supreme Commander grants him, "eternal rest".

With dignity and honor, we'll commit his body to the ground,
The bugler will sound "Taps" and we'll fire the volley rounds.
The final military honors we'll render somberly and ever so sadly;
"Old Glory" we'll solemnly precisely fold and reverently give to his family.

Each Memorial Day we will recall our fallen comrade names,
And attest that their selfless sacrifices were not in vain;
For this lasting legacy they gave to all generations;
"It's honorable to respect our flag and to defend our great nation."

So close ranks aging warriors, for our ranks are thinning.
We must keep on fighting and keep on winning.
With pride and honor we'll march and stand tall,
And we'll proudly - proudly - salute "Old Glory"
'til we too make our final roll call.

By: Carroll R. Michaud

An Empty Place In Our Hearts Missed By Many

Airlee's funeral will be Saturday March 6th at 1 pm at the Bandon High School Gym.

The Kid In Airlee

One day Airlee and I were talking about wildlife and I mentioned how my father used to have pet squirrels in his shop at Rogge's Lumber Mill out by Bullard's Bridge that he taught to do tricks. Airlee got all excited when he heard that and began sending me pictures of him with squirrels at Bullard's State Park. We had a good time talking about lots of wildlife from dainty little black cap chickadees to black bears but he always had a soft place in his heart for those little squirrels and chipmunks the same as my father.

Gary's father playing with his squirrels at the mill.

Video of Airlee enjoying his little friends

More Lasting Memories

Airlee's good friend and Veteran Bill Smith took these photos a few days ago when Bill and his wife Carla went to visit Airlee in the Vancouver V.A. Hospital. Bill wrote... "I took the photo of the vets at the table as they were complaining about the food as only vets can. Also, here is a more recent photo when Airlee had actually been doing much better. The guy in the photo with him was a fellow Air Force member who did a similar job in the Air Force that Airlee did, airborne intelligence gathering along the Soviet border in various locations around the globe. My wife, Carla, and Airlee have been like brothers and sister for the past 35 years."

The Best Of The Best

Bill Smith wrote; "Not bad for a shoeless kid from Bill's Creek Road Bandon, Oregon... Only 1 half of 1 percent of those who join the Air Force could qualify to do what Airlee did during his years of service."

Airlee Owens served as a member of the United States Air Force Security Service(USAFSS) and Russian Linguist.

Airlee is the 4th from the left in the back row.

Airlee spent many countless hours building what is one of the finest tributes to The United States Air Force Security Service known as "SILENT WARRIORS". CLICK HERE TO VIEW
"They Served in Silence."

Airlee serbed his second tour of duty flying missions out of Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks, Alaska. For his service there he was awarded The Air Award.

Photos Courtesy Of Bill Smith

Soilders Must Never Be Forgotten

Airlee was a Veteran that even other Veterans stood to salute. Airlee was a devoted military man, something which he chose to devote his life too and in the process never forgetting about any other member of the service as well. One of Airlee's very good friends, Bill Smith, wrote, "Airlee was a fixture and one of the founders of the Friday afternoon rally for the troops... it continues to this day, but there is a huge hole that can never be filled."

Video Of Airlee And Friends

Airlee's BHS 50th Year Reunion Speech

Photo Courtesy Of Airlee Owens

Hi Friends,

As some of you may know my high school class held its 50 year reunion in August. I had been selected to deliver the keynote speech at the Saturday night dinner; unfortunately I had had surgery three days before that event and missed the reunion altogether. However, since I had written my speech I sent it to Pat Cagley, one of my classmates and she had someone read my speech to my classmates at the dinner.

I am going to share my speech with you just for the hell of it.

Love, Airlee


Good evening classmates, Class of 1959, and friends, family, and teachers.

At one of our planning meetings in April of this year it was suggested that I should be a speaker at our 50th year class reunion. I asked why in the world would you think I would do that? A couple of people said, “Well, you spoke at our 40th year class reunion and you did a pretty good job.” Quite frankly folks, I have no recollection of speaking at our 40th year class reunion and if I did speak I cannot imagine why I did it.

I have no training in speaking before groups of people and, if you want to know the truth, it scares the hell out of me. I took Speech during my Senior year. Mrs. Tressider was the teacher. By the end of the first semester I was such a nervous wreck that I dropped Speech and took Senior English with Mrs. Glasscock. And later on, after I got out of the Air Force I attended Eastern Kentucky University for one year. In English we had to make some kind of short speech speech. My teacher said she could tell I was scared to death because she could see my knee cap jerking through my pant leg while I was speaking. I was very, very nervous. So let me tell you something: I am very honored to be able to speak to you but the analogy is somewhat akin to a guy who was being tarred and feathered. He said that if it were not for the honor of the thing he would just as soon pass it up.

It truly is an honor to speak to you, my fellow classmates of 1959.

The Bandon High School Class of 1959 is a unique class. I suspect all classes are unique in some respects but ours was special. A group or class takes on a unique personality which is sort of a composite of the individuals in that group. And our class had some very, very special people.

Any of us can immediately think of special people in our class or special friends and each of us had different experiences and surely each one of us would name different people who impacted our lives to some degree. Let me name just a few of people whom I remember with a great degree of fondness.

My first recollection is Roger Cox. Roger and I took Freshman Algebra and we used to do our homework and then call each other and check the answers. If we got a different answer on a homework question we would both do the problem over until we both came up with the same answer. I really appreciated Roger being there and helping me get started in advanced mathematics.

Dayton Turner was one of my best friends in high school. I was a hillbilly kid from Kentucky who started in 6th grade in Bandon over at the old Quonset huts across town. I didn’t get to know Dayton until we were in Junior High because he had gone to Ocean Crest in the 6th grade. If you recall, we all attended Bandon High School during our Junior High years. There was no Middle School back then.

One time, after Dayton and I had been friends for quite some time, he pointed out to me that my vocabulary was really lacking. He said he never heard me speak in more than two-syllable words. Well, rather than getting upset at Dayton I took that as a challenge and by the time we graduated I had a fairly decent vocabulary . I competed with Dayton in English and I did really well which probably helped me when I went into the Air Force because three months after I joined the Air Force I was on the campus of Syracuse University studying Russian. I studied nothing but Russian for eight hours a day for nine months. By the end of those nine months I could understand, speak, read, and type in Russian. It was total immersion into the Russian language. I believe a good knowledge of my own language, which I learned at Bandon High School, was very beneficial in studying another language.

And, of course, when I got out of the Air Force and went on to college, my English background and the Russian background really helped me to excel in Freshman English at Eastern Kentucky University. I was the only one in my small classroom of about 15 students who got an “A”.

Who else can I remember? Well, we all remember Linda Sutherland. I believe Linda was the first female student body president at Bandon High School. Linda was beautiful, extremely talented, loved by everyone, and stands out as one of the best remembered members of our class. To some of us Linda was the epitome of the perfect female. She had it all.

And we remember Mike Dahl. Mike was so smart. Many of us envied his brain and wished we were as smart as Mike was.

And we guys remember special girls in the class. I remember Carlleen Metzger. I probably had a lot of fantasies about Carlleen.

But we all lusted after some of our classmates didn’t we? I know that the guys in our class had their favorites whom they secretly dreamed about. And you ladies probably would not have admitted it back then but I bet you will now. You lusted after some of the guys, didn’t you?

We were much less worldly back then than kids are now. For us guys our knowledge of the female anatomy came straight from Playboy magazine and, for many years, I thought all girls had staples in their belly buttons. And do you know something, that really was a forecast of things to come because in today’s world I often see beautiful young ladies with staples in their belly buttons.

My social life really left a lot to be desired in high school. I had two dates in four years of high school and both of them were with girls I would have been ashamed to have been seen with in the daylight. It wasn’t that they were unattractive but their reputations really left something to be desired. And back then we were concerned about our reputations. I hope we still are.

We remember the good athletes, like Bob Bowman. We remember Nelson Pederson for being such a nice guy. And Ron Knox, Bob Ellis, Danny Palmer, Mike Dahl, all really nice guys.

I tried to think of some especially nice girls in our class that stood out but, you know something? They all seemed nice to me. I really tried to think of girls in our class that maybe I had some bad vibes about and, as God is my witness, I could not think of any.

I did not have a close or intimate friendship with any girls in our class but when I was writing my speech for tonight I wanted to single out some special girls in our class. Well, I came to the conclusion that they were all special, every one of you.

Let’s see now, who else can I single out? We remember Ken Butler for always challenging the teachers. The teachers always said that they liked questions but Ken really tested some of the teachers. I think Ken might have caused some teachers to rethink that part about how great it was for students to ask questions.

I can imagine this scenario: A teacher goes to summer school to get more training perhaps to work towards his Masters Degree and he is listening to the college professor tell these young teachers that they need to encourage their students to ask questions and this young teacher from Bandon would stand up and say something like, “Sir, I have been teaching at the high school level for a year now and I implemented that policy where I told my students that I wanted to hear their questions. Well, Sir, I am not sure you have ever heard of Ken Butler at Bandon High School. If you did you might want to rethink this policy of encouraging students to ask questions. I know I have. Can you picture that?

Anyway, the point is that all of us can look back on our class and have very special memories of many of our classmates, friends who were there for us, friends who inspired us, and teachers who were the best and who also inspired and challenged us. I hope that we will always keep those fond memories and that we remember them as long as we live. We will.

Our class was very special and it was made up of some very special people. All of the classmates here tonight are very special. We are the survivors of 50 years of sometimes hard living. We have lost some of our best, Carlleen, Don Wold, Pat Olson, Steve Bowman, Beverly Freeman, Danny Palmer, Larry Hopkins, Larry Martin, and about eight others who are no longer with us. But we still remember them and we will always remember them as being part of our lives.

But let’s get back to the Class of 1959. The uniqueness of our class was that we started in 1956, which was sort of the real beginning of Rock and Roll. With Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, and many, many more we were the first of that era. Quite frankly, I still enjoy 1950’s Rock and Roll and play it quite often when I am cruising around.

In 1957 Sputnik was launched by the Soviet Union, the first satellite to orbit our Earth. That woke up America and the push was on for more math and science after that. I had the good fortune to be in the first Trigonometry class taught at Bandon High School. There were seven of us who had survived Freshman Algebra, Geometry, and Advanced Algebra. Mr. Wright was our teacher. We even learned to use a slide rule. Ask any high school kid today what a slide rule is and you are going to get some strange looks or a weird answer.

Dayton, my brother, and I designed and built our own rockets. We could even go down to the local drug store and buy the ingredients to make black powder and we made our own rocket fuel. Try going down and buying those ingredients today. We did not even need a note from our parents to buy that stuff back in the 50’s.

We never successfully launched a rocket. Every one we tried burned on the launch pad. But it was really fun to dream about being able to launch a rocket.

In 1959, the last year of high school for us, Fidel Castro marched into Havana, Cuba with thousands of people following him. Even though none of us was very political back in those days some of us admired Castro and we viewed him as a liberator against the rotten Batista regime. Some of us actually fantasized how great it would be to join Castro in his fight against Batista and to liberate the poor people in Cuba. And then we found out that Castro, who had initially called himself an agrarian reformer, was a communist. Since none of us liked communists our adoration of Fidel Castro died. Another temporary hero was gone from our lives.

But we rocked on through four years of high school from 1956 to 1959 and I think most of us enjoyed our high school years and look back on them with a certain degree of fondness. I have never ever felt like I got a second class education. In fact, from all the people I have met in my life I have never considered that my education at Bandon High School was second to any of the people I have known. We had good teachers and, for the most part, we pretty much got out of Bandon High School what we put into it.

The other thing I remember about our four years in high school was that we always had a championship football team. But when we would get to the playoffs we always seemed to get beat by some Catholic team in Eugene or Portland. I am still not really fond of Catholics for that reason.

By the way, there is one thing which I did not put into my bio for the book. I got thrown into jail once back many years ago. But I think you will be proud that I was thrown into jail for getting into a fight over our football team. A friend and I went to Florence to see Bandon play Siuslaw. There were not a lot of Bandon fans on the sideline so my friend and I decided we were going to make up for the small number of Bandon fans there. So we got really noisy and loud and irritated some Siuslaw fans and by the end of the first half we had gotten into a good fight and my buddy and I were handcuffed and hauled off to jail. It took our friends over four hours to get enough money together to bail us out. Do you know that jails do not take credit cards or out of town checks? I wonder why.

But I did want you to know that I was jailed for trying to uphold the honor of Bandon High School. The fact that I was about half drunk might have had something to do with it but I would like to think I was fighting for good ole Bandon High.

Well, I do not want to bore you much longer. I think all of us here tonight are obviously proud of our high school, our high school class, and the many wonderful classmates and teachers we had the good fortune to spend some of the best years of our lives with. I encourage each of you to look and around and interact with your classmates. If we have a 60 year reunion it is highly likely that some of us here tonight will not be here ten years from now. So do not miss this opportunity to enjoy your classmates, perhaps for the last time.

I thank you for letting me speak and I am very proud to be part of this class. God has really blessed me over my lifetime and the opportunity to speak to you this evening is just one more of His blessings. I love all of you.

How Did You Meet Airlee?

I had to laugh... Several years ago I wrote a daily Bandon blog and it was there that I first began visiting on a regular basis with Airlee. What I find ironic about our friendship is that during all the years that we wrote each other I didn't have a clue that Airlee was Rosie's brother. In fact Rosie's deceased husband, Lucky Siewell, was one of my best friends with which I have stayed in contact with over the years as well as her wonderful children.

In the beginning Airlee would contribute his amazing photos to my Bandon Blog all of which were the kind of works that make to wish you had it framed and hanging on your wall at home. Airlee really had an amazing eye which when combined with his lifetime devotion of learning his photographic skills, gave him the ability to capture and create photos which were as good as can be found anywhere.

One of the things that I enjoyed most about Airlee was each time we discussed one of his photos he really had a lot to say about it. Not only did we talk about the lighting, film speed, aperture settings but more importantly he enjoyed discussing the subject matter. There were many but I remember when he told me about the day he was walking on the Bandon Jetty when all of a sudden he saw a Bald Eagle land on a driftwood log. The excitement he shared with me was like a kid walking into a new toy store. It was an exciting story that even had a touch of drama as Airlee was trying to shoot the pictures while some tourist were walking towards the eagle completely unaware of what was going on let alone that there was a Bald Eagle just yards in front of them.

Photo Courtesy Airlee Owens

Airlee enjoyed shooting anything with his camera, always looking for that exceptional shot. One such photo was of nothing more that a red boat sitting on the rocks along a river. When I told Airlee how that particular photo brought back so many wonderful memories for me it really hit a nerve. We talked chatted back and forth over an hour about this one photo and it was amazing to look at it from Airlee's eyes because he could see so much more that just a boat. As it turned out he shared many of the exact same memories as I did with regard to that photo simply titled "Red Boat".

Photo Courtesy Of Airlee Owens

Airlee Owens 2/18/1941 - 2/17/2010