Alzheimer's may be seizing Ray Murry’s body and mind, but the smile of the 83-year-old Fresno military veteran is still as captivating as ever. It reminds many folks of Fred MacMurray, the character actor from the 1960s who was the quintessential father or uncle.
It was a mighty physical struggle for ex-Coast Guarder Murry and those helping him slide into the front open cockpit of a 1940 Stearman, but there was unmistakable joy when he lifted off the runway of Fresno’s Chandler Field in the old bi-plane. His smile was complemented by a pair of thumbs up when he was back on the ground.
Murry is of the Greatest Generation, those who grew up during the Depression and later served in World War II. Willowood USA is honoring the veterans of that generation by sponsoring rides in the plane piloted by Darryl Fisher, president of Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation. The foundation is a non-profit organization established and dedicated to seniors and United States military veterans living in long-term care communities that have always had a burning desire to soar like an eagle.
Ageless Aviation is dedicated to every senior, living and deceased that helped build this great nation. Joe Middione, chief operating officer of Willowood “I have personally witnessed the joy this foundation brings to our seniors. All of us at Willowood USA have a deep appreciation for the farmers and veterans of this great nation. We want to show our appreciation and do something very special for them.”
Joining Murry at Chandler were Air National Guard veteran Bill Gleason, 81; 89-year-old Leonard Harrington, another Coast Guard veteran; and Mark Braxton, 76, a Navy veteran. All were from Sunrise Senior Living in Fresno. There’s a youngster in the group, Western Farm Press editor Harry Cline.
Three of these veterans have ties to agriculture. Mark Braxton was raised on a tobacco farm in North Carolina; Leonard Harrington worked for years supplying bagging to agricultural companies; and Bill Gleason’s son, Brad Gleason, is a prominent San Joaquin Valley pistachio grower and marketer.
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