A fellow EAA chapter 1114 member once said, “Everyone in the EAA is greater than you’d think.” That certainly pertains to the organization’s founder. Among homebuilders, the name Poberezny has always evoked awe, and my respect for this gentle giant of a man grew steadily since first reading of him as a teenage student pilot in the early 1970s.
His biography, “Poberezny: The Story Begins…,” reveals the modesty of a person who was perhaps the most unlikely candidate for the fame he was to later achieve, given his family’s simple background and Paul’s mischief as a boy.
My first personal encounter with the man was a letter he wrote to me in early 2001, complimenting me on an issue of the chapter’s newsletter that I edited at that time.
I was skeptical of claims that he read all the newsletters people sent headquarters, but he did, and he took the time to send a letter — who does that any more? This only inspired me to improve my work, eventually earning me EAA awards for this and a newsletter I wrote for IAC chapter 19 here in the Carolinas.
My work was noticed by fellow North Carolinians, former EAA Publications leaders Jack and Golda Cox, leading to several summers helping the EAA writers cover all the great stories one discovers at AirVenture.
During one of the annual parties for writers held at Jim Busha’s hangar at the north end of the airfield, Paul stopped by in Red One for an hour to chat about things. My wife commented that most of his teary-eyed, hushed remarks centered not on flying machines, but on the lifelong devotion of his wife, Audrey.
One writing assignment I received, originating from the Cox’s protégé Mary Jones, dealt with aviation fuel, and an unexpected second career in aviation fuel equipment sales evolved, along with this blog and the formation of the Aviation Fuel Club that helps its many members lower the cost of flying, which for many of its members is the essence of the EAA.
As the president of EAA1114 from 2009-2012, one of the largest chapters in the world, I came more often in contact with Paul Poberezny, who would ask my candid thoughts on the future of the organization that he and Audrey had created. Most recently, he called me last winter to thank me for a letter I had written to him on the topic of aviation fuels and the future leadership of our organization. He described with excitement his just having checked out in the EAA’s B-17, making him the world’s oldest active pilot of the Flying Fortress.
Somewhere in the middle of our half-hour conversation, he began calling me “son.” Having lost my own father a decade ago, another gentle giant who shared my love of aviation, Paul’s words were touching, to say the least, and I sat speechless at my desk for minutes after he hung up.
A fellow homebuilder friend of mine, one of the leading contenders for Tom Poberezny’s job several years ago, recently related a similar telephone encounter with Paul where he was addressed as “son.”
In my case, a few kind words in a letter from him a decade ago led to a new career, a multitude of new friends and the creation of a grassroots group that strives to help people realize the same childhood hunger for flight that drove Paul to greatness.
There is no replacement for Paul Poberezny. When one of my chapter members asked how we can properly honor the man, my reply was simply to follow his lead: “build, build, build — fly, fly, fly.”
See you out West, Mr. Poberezny.