My Friend Kevin
by
Bob Bogash

Kevin Lacey is my friend.  Our paths crossed for the first time in July 2007 when the Connie was transported from Toronto to Empire Aero at Rome, New York.  He's a retired sheet metal mechanic from the USAF and had been assigned by Empire Aero as Lead Mechanic on the Connie Project.  Actually, he's really the Manager of the Project, without the extra pay.  I'm retired.  I only have friends.  When I say Kevin is my friend, I'm not blowing smoke.  I mean it.  When you're working for a living, you have to put up with some nasty type folks.  Mortgages and bosses and all those good things.  When you're retired, you don't have to put up with anything.  Every day is a sunny day, because I won't accept anything less.  I don't have to do anything, work with anyone, or accept any B.S.  What are they going to do -   Fire me?  Life is short and the older you get, the higher the standards you demand of your friends and your activities.

Kevin Lacey

Kevin and the folks at Empire Aero are our contractors on this project.  They work for us.  But, they have embraced this airplane with all the love and enthusiasm as have those of us at the Museum and the other Connie lovers around the world.  In some ways, it's a business relationship - but not for me.  Like I said, I only have friends.


  Kevin - during our first meeting - July 2007



  Kevin's hangar scooter - he's known as Tin Man

        
More than just a little "buffing out."  An airplane badly in need of a Tin Man!

In addition to his mechanical talents, Kevin (aka Tin Man), is no slouch when it comes to writing the King's English.  I like that.  I flatter myself into thinking I can pen a word or two.  That was until I met Kevin. 
The man is a poet.


In April 2007, when the Connie first arrived at Empire Aero - I received this email from Kevin.  The spirit and enthusiasm and "can-do" attitude blew me away - they were startling and wonderfully refreshing compared to the treatment we had endured over the previous few years by those who all seemed to have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed, and were permanently mad at everyone.

  Arrival Rome, NY June 2007


Hello Mr Bogash.

My name is Kevin Lacey. I am the lead structures mechanic on the lovely lady. I was asked to get involved with this project and jumped on the opportunity. As her story began to unfold I began to fall in love with her and am now dedicated to help restore her dignity and stature. I have worked aircraft structures for 30 years, retired US air force.  I want to assure you that my company, Empire Aero Center, my  boss and company vice president Randy Buol,  my dedicated crew and I have all embraced this project, and your airplane is in loving and capable hands at long last. I am very much looking forward to meeting you sir,  and we are honored to be a part of this dream of yours to bring the Super G to Seattle.

 Respectfully Kevin (TinMan) Lacey. Empire Aero Center. Rome NY
  315 534 xxxx. or at my home 315 676 xxxx
.



After stripping the paint off the Lady, he wrote a letter to Catherine Scott - the former owner of the airplane, who has in no way relinquished her love and affection for the old girl either, or her involvement with the airplane's  restoration.  A real letter - with a stamp - not an email.  I had to retrieve it the old fashioned way.  With their kind permission, I reproduce it here.  It says it better than poor old Bob ever could.

Hi Catherine...

I hope and pray that you are well. We are doing fine on this end.

The old girl is shedding her paint jobs quickly and we can continue our moments of discovery. The old art work and lettering and insignia from decades past are all still there in varying degrees of legibility. Evidence of each and every owner, still in the shadows of the paint layers and in places, staining her skin itself. Like chapters in a book, each layer of paint reveals a milestone that was survived or endured by the lady. Now she stands in her glory, stripped of the paint that represented abuse and neglect. She holds her shoulders square against the hangar's encroaching sunlight. Her chin held high and proud like a thoroughbred being  groomed for the race. She knows she will never be what she was in her youth, but she responds to our touch. She knows she is loved, she knows our hearts ache as we uncover each wound and each indignity that left her in derelict ruin lying mere inches from  the Canadian soil. Her integrity grows as her lovely facade is slowly restored. Her engines will never again roar with the music of her soul. The clouds will never again look up to see her pass. But we will raise her up... and her spirit will soar in us, and all who gaze upon her.  And we will all have a little piece of her in our hearts, And though she will never again look exactly like she did, I think that perhaps she was never quite as beautiful as she is becoming.

 Your honored friend Kevin






And, when the Connie was partially reassembled and placed on its landing gear for the first time in 40+ years, I wrote Kevin that it looked like a real airplane again, after all those decades.  His eloquent response:



My thoughts too have strayed and imagined the impossible. But I have seen it all in my minds eye. The belching smoke as she fires her 72 massive cylinders, witnessed by the innocently ignorant jet aircraft parked near by. The roar of the exhaust and the giant paddles cutting the air sending a concert of sound for miles in all directions. People who know will stop what they are doing and sit up straight in their chairs as they hear her singing in the distance. Her voice causing men to close their eyes and smile and stare at the ceilings of their homes and offices. Women and children look on and close their ears with their hands. Seasoned aircraft mechanics stand in awe of her presence, filling their senses with her awesome beauty, listening to her perfect noise. Her grace and majesty command admiration and respect, wonder and awe.  My fantasy goes on, but I must end here because my reality beckons. I have come to realize, however, that the impossible is only so, if I can not see it happen. And like you, I can see it anytime I choose.

Wishing you a blessed day.


Kevin

Kevin Lacey
Like I said - - -  "My Friend Kevin....."



Kevin and some of his proud crew


And proud they should be.
Look at the transformation!  Hard to believe.  Tin Man indeed.


Postscript

In August 2009, our Connie was transported from Rome, NY to Seattle.
Prior to disassembly, we held a Reunion of  Canadian pilots and maintenance personnel who had flown or worked on Connies in eastern Canada.  Many had flown this very aircraft.  Detailed pictures of the event can be found here.

Kevin helped me arrange this event and acted as our Host.



Griffiss Field - Rome, New York

Kevin and I remained in contact after the Connie move, and became Bro's.  In the male world, a "Bro" is an especially good friend - a true Brother.  Not too many guys even wind up with a Bro - I was lucky and had two - Kevin back near Syracuse, and Tony T., now in Olympia, Washington.

In September 2016, after retiring from Empire Aero, Kevin decided to act upon his often expressed desire to come see me in Hansville (Seattle.)  Actually, we both knew, he wanted to come see "his girl" - the Lovely Lady - now displayed proudly in front of the entrance to the Museum of Flight.  So - onto his Harley he climbed - and after a long bike trip of over a week (especially for a geezer), he finally pulled into my driveway.

He spent a week with us, before shipping his bike back home, and taking a plane back to Syracuse.  He decided one way was enough of an adventure for him.   During that time, we went for several rides in my airplane - and -- of course, went to see "our" girl - CF-TGE - the Connie in front of the Museum.  Kevin was a happy camper!



  An accomplished guitar player - my old "gitar" finally got a work out

   
Flying in my RV-12


 Hansville - September 2016

Both Bro's - Kevin and Tony - were guests of mine when I gave a talk about the 727 restoration to the local AIAA Chapter at the Museum.

       

Back visiting again with his girl - the Lovely Lady


Boy, he was happy!!!  And what an honored location.




Museum of Flight - Boeing Field - Seattle

Sadly, after way too short a retirement, Kevin was
diagnosed with brain cancer in 2017.  He was so happy to have made the trip here, that he wanted to show his wife Sue the airplane too.  They started in October 2018, but only got part way, and it was more than Kev could handle - so they turned around and returned home.

Kevin passed away on May 3, 2019.

  Rest in peace, Bro.  I miss you already.




Copyright 2007 - 2019 Robert Bogash.  All Rights Reserved.


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