October 31, 2018
By Marlana Ward
A group of seniors from the Johnson County Senior Center got the opportunity to soar the skies over Mountain City and fulfill lifelong wishes last week when the Johnson County Airport hosted its first ever Senior Aviation Day. The fun day filled with adventure held on Tuesday, October 23, was inspired by a gentleman who frequented the senior center and shared his love of flying with others.
“I had the idea because of a man named Stan Ahrends who was a member of the senior center,” shared Senior Center Director Kathy Motsinger. “He was 90 years old and came to the center almost every day to eat lunch. I always tried to make time to sit and talk with him. I enjoyed his stories, and he always had a story to tell. He was in the US Air Force and was a fighter pilot in the Korean War. He had mentioned to me one day at lunch he would ‘love to go back up in the sky’ so I talked with Dave Garis, the manager at the Johnson County Airport, and he was excited to help me plan a special ‘Aviation Day’ for the senior center to honor Stan.”
Airport Director Dave Garris was very excited at the idea and immediately began making arrangements.
“The idea was discussed about having a senior aviation day. With my drive to make our airport open access to the public here in Johnson County coupled with my passion for aviation and to share my experience with others, we started planning the date.”
“Dave Garis is a wonderful person and gives so much of his time to help others,” expressed Motsinger. “He called his pilot friends, and they planned to come to our Aviation Day and donated their time and planes for the seniors.”
Once plans were starting to take shape, Motsinger began to see how interested many seniors were in taking flight.
“After making the announcement and starting the signup sheet I was astonished at the interest,” she said. “It seems that this was on many of the seniors’ bucket list. This was a first flight for many of the seniors.”
The six volunteer pilots took the seniors on a scenic flight over Johnson County.
“They flew over the town of Mountain City and then went a lap around Doe Mountain and Doe Valley where they were able to see part of Watauga Lake. The ride ended with coming over Roan Valley and landing back at the airport.”
The Johnson County Airport and the pilots that utilize its facilities hope to see more interest by the county residents in the opportunities it provides and the airport’s role in the community.
“I am proud that our community is using the airport facility and realizing what an overall asset this airport has become,” expressed Garris.
The Senior Center has a busy fall/winter season coming up with many events in the works. Upcoming events include a special Veteran’s Day Celebration on November 9 and a Health Fair to be held on November 15. The center will also be partnering Danny Herman Trucking to provide a Thanksgiving Meal for shut-ins within the community. Those wishing to learn more about the Senior Center, the programs it offers, or volunteer opportunities may call the center at 727-8883.