Sam first met Elton on the tarmac in front of the
Confederate Air Force hangar where he noticed Elton with his head buried within
the cowling of his Bonanza. After a considerable
amount of time, Sam strolled out to Elton to see if he could help him. As Elton pulled his head out from under the
cowling he extended a hand of friendship.
He told Sam he could not fly the Bonanza until it was repaired. Elton asked Sam if he could leave the
aircraft on the tarmac overnight. Sam
granted his request, and Elton countered with another request; he needed a ride
home. Sam asked Elton where he lived. When Elton told him “Sun
Lakes” Sam said he would
take him home. At that time Elton was
not aware that Sam also lived in Sun
Lakes, but he accepted the
ride, no questions asked. We will have
to explore Sam’s life story to discover what events led to this chance meeting.
Sam was born in Chicago,
Illinois. He moved around the Greater Chicago area a
number of times during his formative years.
His introduction to flight came when he was seven years of age. His grandfather had taken him to a nearby
airport so Sam could watch airplanes taxi and fly around the airport; he even
got to walk around a Piper Cub and sit in it.
Then, his grandfather arranged a ride for him in the Cub. Well, that whetted his appetite for flying,
an appetite that has never been filled.
In spite of some tumultuous times Sam graduated from a ROTC high school,
a trade school that also offered a heavy concentration of liberal arts
Following high school
and wanting to become a dentist, Sam entered college in 1949. His time was divided between school and a
job that was required to pay for college.
His job as a printer/lithographer was both good and bad. Bad because he did not have enough time to
devote to studies, but good because . . . we will get to that later. Within a year he left college and his job to
enlist in the Air Force.
training, Sam was sent to Fort Belvoir, Virginia
to an Army Corps of Engineers school near Washington D. C. to become a
surveyor. Four months later, Sam
returned to the Air Force at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois
where he applied his newly acquired skills in an engineering outfit, but not
for long. He was soon reassigned to Morocco
where he assumed the position as the Senior Surveyor. Not only did Sam develop significant engineering skills building
and installing microwave repeaters, radar sites, roads, runways and setting
property limits for building projects from Casa Blanca to Marrakech, but he was
also getting a lot of time in the air with two flight officers who needed to
log flying hours. He flew all over North
Africa and tagged along on trips to Spain
. . . just to whet his aviation appetite a bit more. Subsequently, Sam was transferred to Yuma AFB, Arizona
because the base required a total rebuild.
It wasn’t all
work and no play at Yuma. A number of fighter aces were stationed at Yuma
and frequently flew the T-33 target aircraft and Sam was often the
observer. As a result of Sam’s work at Yuma AFB, all three runways were
designated as an alternate for an Edwards AFB landing of the shuttle. Moreover, his work paid off similarly in Morocco
where two airports that he rebuilt were also designated as an early landing
site for an aborted shuttle mission.
Sam completed his Air Force enlistment in 1955 while at Yuma AFB. From there he headed home, east to Chicago
with his young bride who was native Arizonian and who had never seen snow.
in this story that Sam had a job while in college that turned out to be both
good and bad. The good part was that
his job allowed him to learn skills in printing and lithography. That single year he received on-the-job
experience led to a very successful and rewarding 35-year career in
lithography, a high pressure profession that lasted until 1990. Sam’s skills became so acute that he was able
to discern color variances within two wave lengths. During that long career Sam devoted himself
to the W. W. Grainger Company where he worked with such clients as; Playboy,
Sears, most of the Detroit automakers, Montgomery Ward, Helene Curtis, Wilson
Sporting Goods, and many others. Even
so, during these stressful years Sam always had time for flying.
Sam and his buddy restored two
Fairchild Gull Wing aircraft. When the
Fairchilds were airworthy, the two friends shared in the fruits of their labor
with local area flying in a revered airplane.
Sam also flew frequently in a Cessna with his cousin who was a WWII
veteran. His cousin flew B-26 Martin
Marauders during the war.
A year before Sam retired, the
Confederate Air Force (CAF) B-17, Sentimental Journey, flew into nearby Du Page
Airport. Sam did not hesitate. He made a bee-line to the airport where he
became familiar with the B-17 and the CAF.
The CAF also became familiar with Sam and when he indicated he would be
moving to the Phoenix
area when he retired they signed him up.
You see, Sam had been visiting his nephew in Sun
Lakes and his wife made it
clear that there would be no snow shovels after retirement.
That brings us
full circle. Sam moved to Sun
Lakes and became the CAF
Arizona Wing Procurement Officer. Sam
became a valuable member of the team at the Arizona Wing. He was able to find parts and pieces for 6
WWII aircraft, including the celebrated B-17 Sentimental Journey. Over the years the Wing presented Sam with 6 awards and a 7th award for
“screwing up”. The latter award
was presented after Sam drove into a ditch while riding his Suzuki motorcycle across the center of the Falcon airport. Since retirement, Sam’s most memorable
flights have been in the CAF antique aircraft, during Fly-Ins sponsored by the
Sun Lakes Aero Club, and two trips with Elton to Chicago
in Elton’s Bonanza, one being somewhat memorable.
experience with all kinds of aircraft, air frames, and aircraft engines,
coupled with his success in corporate America
as a manager, supervisor and administrator provided direction and stability
during the evolution of the Sun Lakes Aero Club. Sam’s membership included a regular benefit from his wife, Esther
“the club’s official cookie maker”. Sam
served as Treasurer, Vice President, and President. Sam passed away July 6,
The Sun Lakes Aero Club benefited
from the early pioneers: Al Galvi, Elton Dyal, and Sam Doria. But wait; there is one more – Vern
Nelson. It wasn’t until Vern became
involved that the club was bonded with the organizational and administrative
processes that guarantee its success into the future. It is interesting how Vern’s experience in the corporate world
and his love of flight folded together to provide the final ingredient that
binds the Sun Lakes Aero Club together.
LINK BACK TO AL GALVI
LINK BACK TO ELTON
LINK FORWARD TO VERN NELSON