BURNET, Texas (KXAN) — It’s been more than a half-century since LeVaune Ward has been in the cockpit of a Piper Cub and felt the rush of handling a plane and hovering above rooftops. For Ward, 93, flying was something she always wanted to do. “After I graduated from high school, I decided after I got out, I wanted to fly.”
While Ward, who now lives in Round Rock, was training at the airport in Omaha, Neb. she also met someone who would become a part of her life for the next 68 years. “I met my husband there at the airport and he asked me to fly one day and he was a pilot there and I said ‘OK’ but I had to do all the flying,” Ward says jokingly. “Our daughter’s version of that was: When mother landed that airplane, daddy was smitten.”
After she received her flight training, Ward became a pilot in the Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) and was one of the few female pilots during World War II. WAVES was created in 1942 in response to the need for additional military personnel during WWII. Ward did most of her flying and training in a Piper Cub, which was a common plane in use during the WWII era. The last time Ward flew in a Piper Cub was in 1946, but the urge to get back into the cockpit tugged at her for years.
For his grandmother’s 93rd birthday, Michael Spickes knew he wanted to do something special. When Spickes asked her what she wanted, she mentioned that “her greatest memories came from flying.” With that in mind, Spickes made a few phone calls and found a flight instructor in Burnet who had a Piper Cub available and was willing to take his grandmother up for one last trip through the sky. On Sunday, Ward’s family and friends gathered at the Burnet Airport to see her fly.
“Today was really special, today was different,” says flight instructor Ken Wittekiend with Promark Aviation. “We had a great time flying with this lady, which will probably be her last instructional flight. It was an honor and a privilege to get to fly with her in the Piper Super Cub.” Once back in the plane, Ward was a natural. “She was very comfortable in the airplane. She got to fly the airplane some–she had the controls and we made several circuits around and made a landing,” says Wittekiend.
After a birthday gift full of adrenaline and nostalgia, Spickes says his grandmother considers him “her one and only favorite grandson.”