SEATAC, Wash. — Jonathan Standridge and Colton Harris-Moore made an odd couple as they sat together in the visiting room of a Washington state prison one day last spring.
Standridge, 57, is a project manager at Boeing, one of the world's most important aviation companies. Harris-Moore, 21, is the "Barefoot Bandit," a world-famous airplane thief who is serving a seven-year sentence after a sensational run from the law in stolen boats, cars and planes.
As it turned out, they had a lot to discuss. Aerospace design. Books. And second chances.
"What have you heard about me?" Harris-Moore asked, Standridge recalled. "I've read all about the 'Barefoot Bandit,' " Standridge said. Harris-Moore replied: "That's not who I am."
Ever since, Standridge has returned to the prison in Aberdeen, a two-hour drive from his lakeside home in the Seattle suburb of SeaTac, at least once a month, hoping to have a positive influence on what has been a bleak, if sometimes thrilling, young life, and to repay a favor someone once did for him. "This is a young man that is fully engaged in the rehabilitation process that we in society ask of those folks who are in our prison system," said Standridge, who has tutored Harris-Moore in the airplane business and a lot more.
A chance encounter led Standridge to Harris-Moore. At last year's Seattle International Film Festival, he met Lance Rosen, Harris-Moore's media attorney. As they made small talk, Rosen grew more interested in Standridge's work and finally asked: Would he be interested in mentoring Harris-Moore?
Intrigued, Standridge sent Harris-Moore a letter in prison. Harris-Moore wrote back, and Standridge was hooked. "The key ingredient I look for in something like this is somebody who has passion — passion for life, passion to move forward," Standridge said.
"It immediately came off the pages of this first letter that we had a highly motivated young man who was looking to change his life."