The Tommy Kersey Story by W.E. (Bill) (Sebo) Sebastian
The Tommy Kersey Story
By: W. E. (Bill) (Sebo) Sebastian
Although it has been almost forty years ago, the story of the following event tells the story of why Piedmont Airlines and its people were an extraordinary and wonderful organization.
On June 4th, 1970, Piedmont Airlines flight 404001 lifted off runway 33 at the Winston-Salem airport and climbed into the beautiful Carolina blue sky with just the right amount of picturesque puffy white clouds. This flight was not on the regular Piedmont schedule and would never be flown again. Aboard the Martin 404 was a group of all Piedmont personnel on a somber mission to pay their respects to a beloved fallen comrade.
As the aircraft continued to climb and turn westward, hardly anyone spoke a word until one of the passengers looked down and spotted an empty baseball field. Then after pointing out the field, to others, the passenger said "what a fitting tribute" flying over a baseball field, a place he loved.
Tommy Kersey, only 37 years young, was an accomplished aircraft mechanic, a devoted father and an avid Little League baseball fan. The fact that the last good moments he spent on this earth, squatting behind the little boy catcher, was a testament to his personal life. Tommy was umpiring a little league baseball game when the terrible pain and the resulting physical limitations suddenly struck him down. Many believe Tommy knew this situation was bad and told some of his close friends who were with him that he knew his time had come. Some have said that he looked up from the stretcher as the EMT's were taking him from the ball field, and said, "fellows, order the flowers and get out the blue suits, this is it." Tommy began his last flight west, a one way trip to a greater place, a few moments later.
Recently, Tommy had been selected to move up to the maintenance control, a position he had been hoping to achieve for a long time. But fate or some higher calling would not allow Tommy to reach his goal. Since Tommy's appointment to maintenance control, he had been in training schools at the Boeing aircraft facilities in Seattle and various Piedmont training classes. Now that he was through schooling and ready to begin trouble shooting Piedmont's aircraft maintenance problems, Tommy couldn't wait to get started...but his dream job would never happen.
This special flight, arranged by co-workers, many who never met Tommy was an example of the Piedmont spirit that prevailed in those days...that all employees were like family. Piloted by Captain Lloyd Lyons, the 404 lumbered toward the Hickory, NC airport. Once the A/C landed, just like clockwork, plans worked out by the Piedmont station personnel at Hickory sprang into action. Charter buses were standing by to take the Piedmont passengers to the Highland Baptist church just a few miles down the road. After the church services, the buses took the mourners on the flight to the Catawba Memorial Park Cemetery. All these actions had been coordinated by some wonderful Piedmont personnel at Winston-Salem and the Piedmont station people at the Hickory station.
The service at the cemetery was typical with family, friends and in this instance fellow coworkers reverently saying their goodbyes. There were other co-workers present that had driven to Hickory...some wishing to spend more time with the family and others unable to get on this "special" flight. Just as the minister finished his grave side service, the drone of aircraft engines could be heard - and soon seen was the Martin 404 as it slowly banked and circled the grave site! After flying a short distance and making a steep turn the aircraft flew directly overhead, revving its engines, dipping its wings as it passed and
then flew off into the distance.
Although the weather was warm this June day, many of the mourners felt the chill that seemed to permeate the group at the passing of the Aircraft overhead.
Many have said that Tommy must have smiled at this most fitting ceremony.
W. E. Sebastian, April 2008, Wmsebo@triad.rr.com
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/26/2009 03:00AM by Don Shanks.