Ready for takeoff ... again
For three years, Carolynn Riechers found a second home in the air, working as a United Airlines stewardess in the early 1940s.
For her 100th birthday, she celebrated by returning there, spending part of Friday afternoon in the shotgun seat of a Cessna Centurion 210 for a quick trip from the Medford airport out to Crater Lake and back.
Jackson County Administrator Danny Jordan sat in the pilot’s seat.
“That was wonderful. Just wonderful,” Riechers said after the Cessna’s wheels touched down on Terra Firma.
A bit of planning needed to happen before takeoff.
Riechers, a resident of Rogue Valley Manor, celebrated her actual birthday earlier this month, but Manor officials wanted to do something extra for her worthy of the milestone. It’s something they do for all residents who turn 100, Manor event coordinator Sarah Karnatz said.
Wishes vary. Over the years, Karnatz has coordinated beauty salon visits, helicopter rides, motorcycle sidecar rides, and more. She began to work out a plan with Riechers’ family.
“I found out Carolynn was a flight attendant, and I was like, ‘Oh, we should try to get her in a plane,’” Karnatz said.
Prior to her time in the sky, Riechers taught home economics at Ashland High School. During World War II, however, she switched jobs. Before the conflict, flight attendants were required to be registered nurses, according to a 2002 Vanity Fair piece chronicling the profession’s history. Many of those nurses joined the war effort. The job came with strict physical requirements, including height and weight limits. They also could not be married.
“They took all these nurses that might be aboard planes and replaced them with college graduates,” Riechers said. “They had to have substitutes for something. They took secretaries, teachers especially.”
Riechers especially liked the takeoffs and landings during flights. In 1943, she married, ending her stint in the profession, but her interest in airplanes continued, said her daughter Peggy Watters.
“When we were kids in Portland, I remember our family outings would be going to the airport and watching the planes take off and land,” Watters said.
Enter Jordan, a friend of Karnatz’s, who has been flying for about 20 years.
“I like donating my airplane and my pilot time to good causes,” Jordan said. “And honestly, when I heard about this lady’s past and her history and just everything that she values in life, I was really interested to participate, so I offered to do it.”
Jordan helped Riechers get in the plane’s front seat. Her daughter Peggy sat in the back.
“So I hear that taking off and landing is your favorite,” Jordan said.
“That’s true,” Riechers said.
They decided on Crater Lake as a destination. Airborne, the view included the Table Rocks, Mount McLoughlin, cotton candy clouds, and miles upon miles of forestland. Eventually Mount Thielsen appeared in the distance, the edge of Crater Lake in the foreground. At one point, Jordan banked slightly, giving a clearer view.
At about 11,000 feet, Jordan’s plane flew over the middle of the lake, deep blue glinting through the aircraft windows.
“The lake was gorgeous. The clouds were gorgeous. It was a neat flight,” Riechers said. “I truly enjoyed it.”
Reach web editor Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @RyanPfeil.