Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Aviation company displays Clearwater man's restored Piper Cub to mark 75th anniversary

Geri Crosby of Clearwater was asked to bring her husband’s 1946 Piper J-3 Cub to Lakeland’s recent Sun ’n Fun air show to commemorate Piper’s 75th anniversary.

Piper Aircraft

Geri Crosby of Clearwater was asked to bring her husband’s 1946 Piper J-3 Cub to Lakeland’s recent Sun ’n Fun air show to commemorate Piper’s 75th anniversary.

CLEARWATER — After her husband, Walter, died in January, Geri Crosby figured her days of Piper Cubs and air shows were over.

That all changed last week after Piper Aircraft asked her to bring her late husband's restored Piper J-3 Cub to the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In, an annual air show that attracts tens of thousands to the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport. Piper Aircraft wanted to display the pristine plane, built in 1946, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of both the Piper Cub and Piper Aircraft.

So Geri, a Clearwater resident, went to the air show and told the story of how Walter's friends had finished restoring the plane for him as he was dying from cancer and how he watched it fly just days before he died in January.

At the air show, the plane drew much praise while stirring up lots of memories and emotions for onlookers.

"People talked about how they took their first plane ride or flying lessons in a Piper," said Geri. "And those who knew Walter said he would be so pleased to know his plane was featured in the air show."

Not only that, it was entered into judging at the air show and was named the best restoration for classic aircraft with engines under 100 horsepower.

Geri and Walter were 15-year volunteers for the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In, which ended this year's six-day run on Sunday with a performance by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. This was the first time Geri had been there without her husband.

"It could have been very difficult, but it turned out to be wonderful," she said.

Jacqueline Carlon, director of marketing for Piper Aircraft, said the company had been on the hunt for a special Piper Cub to celebrate the 75th anniversary when they heard about the Crosbys and their special story.

"Even though we don't build the plane anymore, we wanted to pay homage to the Cub because it is such a symbol of our heritage," Carlon said. "William T. Piper's intent was to make flying accessible to everyone. He wanted it to be just like owning a car."

The plane, typically yellow and embellished with a black lightning bolt on the side, has become the icon of personal flight for many Americans. Cubs were simple, lightweight and affordable, making them an ideal aircraft for training civilian and World War II pilots to fly.

About 20,000 Piper Cubs were manufactured between 1937 and 1947, Carlon said.

In January, a Tampa Bay Times story detailed how the couple bought the classic two-seater plane for $650 in 1962. Over the years, Walter's plans to restore the dilapidated plane were stymied by family, work and other obligations. For decades, its wings, fuselage and propellers were stowed in the attic, under beds, in the dining room.

When he retired, Walter finally began a seven-year restoration effort and also earned a pilot's license. Six years ago, he was diagnosed with colon cancer and began battling the disease.

But late last year, when it became apparent that Walter didn't have much longer to live, his aviation buddies worked day and night to complete the restoration and get the plane airborne.

Though Walter would never fly it or ride in it, he did see it take off twice from his bedroom window overlooking Clearwater Airpark — 50 years after the plane was rescued from a scrap yard.

Piper isn't the only one with a 75th anniversary to celebrate. Geri will turn 75 this year. Walter would have as well.

"I'm sorry I don't have him around to tell this great story to," Geri said. "I hope though — I believe — he already knows."

Aviation company displays Clearwater man's restored Piper Cub to mark 75th anniversary 04/04/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 6:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Macy's chairman replaces ex-HSN head Grossman on National Retail Federation board


    Terry Lundgren, chairman of Macy's Inc., will replace Weight Watchers CEO Mindy Grossman as chair of the National Retail Federation, the organization announced Wednesday. Grossman stepped down from her position following her move from leading St. Petersburg-based HSN to Weight Watchers.

    Weight Watchers CEO and former HSN chief Mindy Grossman is being replaced as chair of the National Retail Federation. [HSN Inc.]
  2. Team begins work to exhume Salvador Dali's body for paternity test


    FIGUERES, Spain — A forensic team on Thursday entered the Salvador Dali museum in northeastern Spain where the surrealist artist's remains are due to be exhumed to settle a paternity claim brought by a 61- year-old woman.

    Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali, presents his first Chrono-Hologram in Paris, France, in 1973. Work has begun to exhume his body for a parternity test. Dali, considered one of the fathers of surrealism in art, died in 1989 and is buried in his museum in the northeastern town of Figueres. [Associated Press]
  3. Good news for Rays on Steven Souza Jr. as MRI shows 'no damage' to hip


    The Rays got good news today on RF Steven Souza Jr., as an MRI showed "no damage" to his left hip.

    Steven Souza Jr. #20 of the Tampa Bay Rays holds his leg after hurting himself trying to steal second base in the first inning against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on July 19, 2017 in Oakland, California.
  4. Spring Hill couple arrested on drug charges after months-long investigation


    SPRING HILL — A Spring Hill couple was arrested Wednesday on several drug charges after a months-long investigation by the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

    Hernando County Sheriff's Office detectives stand behind 24 pounds of marijuana seized by the agency during a drug bust this week. [Photo by Megan Reeves]
  5. New Pinellas Trail stretch draws raves at opening

    Human Interest

    EAST LAKE — Mike Siebel bikes the Pinellas Trail four days a week and loops up and down the Suncoast Trail at least a couple times every year. A 68-year-old cycling diehard, he was so eager for the opening of the 5-mile segment extending the Pinellas Trail to the Pasco border that he would often drive across …

    Cyclists wait for the official opening of the Pinellas Trail's newest segment. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times