|"77 Victor, Voice of the Sequoias"
Canvas by Canvas became aware of the Wendell Eckert story through one of our
members, Maryann Stephens. In fact Maryann knows just about everyone ever
mentioned in our conversations, and so many times we’ve heard her begin a story or
interject a comment into one of ours by saying “They Used To Live In My Neighborhood”
that we’ve abbreviated this to “Oh, it’s just one of Maryann’s TUTLIMNs.”
Thus Wendell Eckert is known to us by way of a Maryann TUTLIMN. His daughter,
Gretchen, gave Maryann a photo of this vintage Cessna 195 as a basis for our painting.
The call numbers on the wing of the plane were 77 Victor. These numbers are unique
to that individual plane -- the call number the towers used to direct the plane for landing
or other orders. The plane was built in 1949 and was used by Wendell as the lead
plane for the U.S. Forest Service primarily in the Sequoia National Forest. His job was to
strategically lead the bombers into the forest to drop fire retardant. The U.S. Forest
Service referred to Wendell as the “Voice of the Sequoias” since his was the lead forest
fire plane for thirty years.
An admirer of Wendell Eckert, William (Tim) McMaster, posted a video of one of his
flights on YouTube. Wendell is seen taking a beautiful bride for a celebratory flight.
Wendell was 79 years old in this clip but he began flying in college in Wooster, Ohio. He
flew until the age of 82 in California, flying over 24,000 hours in his career. He died at
age 91. Born in 1916 in Youngstown, Ohio, Wendell’s house and the airport can be seen
at the beginning of the clip in black and white and the photo was taken right after the war.
When the war came, he was chosen to join the Army Air Corp in California and serve as
flight instructor to countless cadets preparing for battle.
Mr. McMaster told Gretchen he put the video on YouTube with hopes she might enjoy it
someday. He said “We loved your Dad very much”. The Cessna 195 is unique as it is a
radial engine tail dragger and few of the planes have survived the years because the
planes are very temperamental and require very experienced pilots.
Gretchen and ZoAnn and Tim thank you for providing the information so that CBC could
enjoy painting this work and getting to know your story
|C A N V A S B Y C A N V A S