I think the proper word is Lithesome… but in the back of my mind… I was already hearing that wonderful little soft country song… "Baby's Got Her
Blue Jeans On" … It was the first time I ever laid eyes on Connie Bowlin
Over the years I got to know her
husband Ed well… Two of the nicest, kindest folks I've ever known… both destined to become legends in the "Warbird" community.
would prove to be as beautiful inside as she
was out… Confident but not arrogant and she
flew as gracefully as she
It is a friendship I've always cherished.
How can you not love someone who rubs elbows with the elite of the aviation world… and yet always remembers your birthday with a card or email?
There are times in life when you look at others and wonder how they ended up being the people they were?
As I got to know Connie
and Ed… some things became readily apparent… her grace and demeanor came natural… the product of a loving family and a solid southern upbringing… other things were more subtle… and the missing link was answered at an Air Show in Macon, Georgia, one day.
and I watched the T-6 go through its' routine, I realized I was watching a master at work.
The routine was fluid, smooth and graceful.
No herky-jerky, manhandling and brutal abuse of the sky and plane… just a wonderful display of skill and coordination.
I turned to Connie
and opined, "I don't know who that guy is… but he's
my kind of pilot… he's
the best I've seen in a long time".
turned and looked down at me, half smiled and said, "It's Ed".
mate… and a hell of a man he
I know Ed is a wonderful instructor and mentor…but in Connie's case… he had a lot to work with.
She started at Delta as a Flight Attendant and that's where she and Ed first met.
After dating for a while, she
indicated an interest in learning to fly and Ed started her
out at the bottom of the heap… making her
help overhaul an engine for the Piper Cub she
'd learn to fly in (the girl has no problem getting her
hands dirty, more on that later)… once soloed… she moved rapidly on to more complicated aircraft… getting her
tickets along the way.
In what I consider a short time… she
became a pilot for Delta
and started flying Warbirds
as well… Before her Delta
career was over, Connie
was a Captain on the 757/767 and had flown just about every other type in the fleet.
Warbird career is just as impressive… having flown an impressive number of different military aircraft.
But there is so much more to her
than that… If ever the EAA or the Warbird community in particular… needed an ambassador or representative of someone who cares… who paid their dues… does it right and continues to sacrifice and support whenever called… it is Connie Bowlin
Where Sue Parrish left off… Connie
picked up the baton and ran with it.
has done it all.
has given unselfishly of herself and her
time (not to mention a ton of money) to support the EAA and the Warbird Community at large.
She has flown air shows… she has written articles… she has made appearances and served on boards.
has done it all with good cheer and humility… asking nothing in return.
In addition to this, she
and Ed have given incredible support to the Annual Gathering of Eagles over at Maxwell AFB… giving rides to future aviators of the next century… and doing anything else they are asked to do.
I have often wondered… what inspires others to give so selflessly.
Thank God our community and country still produces folks such as this.
Two stories I love to tell about Connie… in the mid-eighties, I was culling a junk yard in Macon, Georgia… about 65 miles south of where Connie
and Ed lived.
It was dirty, filthy work and my labor pool was generally comprised of street types that hung around the local welfare office.
I was an equal opportunity employer… including one fella whose name was Henry, but preferred to be called Henrietta… I'll let Connie tell you about Henrietta.
One day, I'm standing on a pile of rubble over looking the workers and all of a sudden, they stopped… all of them staring behind me… as I looked over my shoulder, there stood Connie
, blue jeans and all.
I had to smile to myself, because their reaction was much like mine when I first saw her
walked up and said, "how's it going"?
I explained to her
it was slow… that there was so much stuff to look through… that it took all my attention just to identify things and separate the good from the bad… she
then said, "I'll help".
One minute later, she's
down in the rubble with the rest of the workers… picking, sorting and getting dirty as hell… Henrietta was beside himself… he
couldn't believe this graceful beauty was willing to get down in the dirt just like the rest of the guys… all of them, to say the least, were impressed.
One fall many years ago… the blond and I went up to Griffin (actually I think it's Zebulon) to spend the weekend with Connie
and Ed… They, along with the Bass's live on a private airport… as I drove along the little one lane black top to their house, the autumn leaves were floating across the driveway… it was one of those perfect days, just a hint of chill in the air and a very light breeze.
climbed for altitude and leveled off… I watched in amazement as Connie
put the Mustang through it's paces… a graceful aileron roll (so smooth)… followed by a Cuban Eight, then pulling up into a smooth perfect loop… capped off with a four point roll… I said, "Ed, you're watching history in the making… I just hope I don't have clean up after it… the blond has never been upside down in an airplane in her
About that time, Connie
comes down the runway and does a long graceful pitch out for landing… as they touched down, the blond can be seen waving from the backseat… grinning from ear to ear.
Blow me over with a feather!
I asked the blond later why the white knuckles with me and obvious joy, flying with Connie
reply was classic blond… "Because she's
a woman"… Well duh?
No shit; I knew that the first time I saw her… I shook my head and gave up… realizing an old friend had figured it out long ago, when he
said, "Shadow, even if you did know how a woman thinks… you wouldn't believe it anyway"!
It still was frustrating… by that time I'd had a fairly impressive resume myself… a bona fide military fighter pilot, carrier pilot, bagged six night traps in one night under horrible conditions… survived stupidity in the cockpit… fires in flight and a whole host of other emergencies… but when it came to trust… gender trumped it all.
I've thought about it over the years… I had two daughters… and I'd always wanted them to aspire to higher ground… and it dawned on me one day that they needed hero's too, that they could relate to… like I had when I came up… people of their own gender who made it through hard work and persistence… and Connie Bowlin
personifies the roll model I would want them to follow… and to be honest… she's
a hell of a role model for anyone… man or woman.
Connie is a great ambassador for our group and deserves recognition for all she has contributed over these many years… you know, some things are hard to improve on… a crisp fall day, turning leaves, a Mustang… and Baby's got her blue jeans on… it don't get any better than this!