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Continental airlines pilot mourned in Lutz

LUTZ — Hours after Kaley Renslow learned that her father died in a plane crash, she closed her swollen eyes and fell asleep. The 12-year-old girl had a dream.

In her dream, her father appeared and asked her why she was so sad.

"I had told him that he was gone and that he would never come back again and I would never get to see him," Kaley said tearfully. "He said to me that he would never leave me. That he was home. That he lives in my heart."

More than 1,000 mourners wept with Kaley on Friday night as she shared her dream during a memorial service for her father, Capt. Marvin Dean Renslow, the airline pilot whose plane crashed in New York on Feb. 12, killing all 49 aboard and a man on the ground.

The two-hour service at First Baptist Church of Lutz was punctuated with laughter and tears as Renslow's two children offered a personal glimpse into the life of a man who loved God, his family and his church.

Fellow church members spoke frequently about the legacy Renslow leaves behind in his two children. But it was the heartfelt sentiments of his daughter and son that showed beyond words the type of person Renslow was — including a man of honor, of integrity and of faith.

"My dad did everything he could to save the people on the plane," Kaley said. "But it was just his time. Along with everyone else's."

Renslow, 47, was the pilot of Continental Connection Flight 3407 from Newark to Buffalo when it lost its ability to fly, perhaps due to icing.

Some have questioned whether the plane should have been on autopilot in those conditions, leading to speculation about whether pilot error contributed to the fiery crash. However, National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration guidelines differ about autopilot use in such situations.

The criticism did not go unnoticed by those who knew Renslow.

"It incenses me when the media and the NTSB make statements without the facts to support them to push the public to certain perceptions," said Bill Smith, 49, who was friends with Renslow and a fellow softball coach. "I never met a man that had as much passion as Marvin did for what he did."

Renslow fell in love with airplanes when he took his first flight with his Uncle Paul and Aunt Diane at age 5. That led to his career, which kept him away from his family for days at a time. But when he was home, he focused his full attention on his family and his church, where he sang in the choir and played drums in the praise band.

When he asked church band mates about their lives, he genuinely wanted to know, they said.

The entire Renslow family sang at the close-knit church, which pulled together to comfort Renslow's wife, Sandy, his 17-year-old son, Tyler, and Kaley.

Just before the last song was about to begin, the pastor cut off the band. Tyler had decided in that last moment to speak.

"This is not a pity party," he said.

His dad would not have wanted that. He said his father used to tell him: "Quit crying or I'll give you something to cry about" when Tyler would shed tears over little things.

"I think he just wanted another excuse to spank me," Tyler said, drawing laughter.

And his father was big on respect. When his parents had disagreements, Renslow would make it clear to his son that he respected his mother.

The Land O'Lakes High senior thanked the crowd for their support, especially his school friends who rallied to his side, and neighbors who brought them food.

"I am truly grateful," he said.

His father never tried to make a big impression, he said.

"The funny thing is, even though he didn't strive to be remembered … he's remembered so greatly."

As for Kaley, she will always remember her dream. She got to hug and kiss her father one more time.

Dong-Phuong Nguyen can be reached at (813) 269-5312 or nguyen@sptimes.com.

Continental airlines pilot mourned in Lutz 02/20/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 21, 2009 7:44am]
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