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GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN

by Nancy Allison Wright

Tromping through the woods of Nittany Mountains in central Pennsylvania, two deer hunters come across a stone memorial. Sweeping away the brush and dried leaves they see the following inscription: Charles H. Ames, U.S. Air Mail Service Crashed Here October 1, 1925.

"Who was this man?" one of them asks. "Why a memorial stone in such a remote place?"

His curiosity piqued, the hunter researches the name. At the local library he learns that Charles Ames was an airmail pilot with the U.S. Air Mail Service. Attempting to land in Bellefonte, PA, on the New York to Cleveland run, he crashed and died at this spot.

Miles away another stone memorial commemorates the life of yet another airmail pilot brought down by the harsh flying conditions of the Pennsylvania Mountains, appropriately called the Hell Stretch. His stone reads: Lt. Charles W. Lamborn, U.S. Airmail Service Crashed Here July 19, 1919.

Should the hunter inquire further he will learn the name of the man responsible for marking the locations where two airmail pilots lost their lives. He is Daniel Lucas, and he lives nearby in Mingoville, Pennsylvania.

When Daniel was eleven-years old his grandfather, Richard Workman, told him about a brave airmail pilot who had crashed on a foggy night in the woods behind his home. Intrigued by the story, Daniel and his brother combed the woods searching for the site but failed to find it.

The years passed. Then in 1970, Dr. William Cleveland, of Cleveland, Ohio, contacted Daniel. Cleveland had erected a memorial stone to commemorate his brother Jimmy who crashed into the side of Nittany Mountain in 1931, and he wanted to find the Ames site.

Daniel was happy to oblige. He enlisted the help of his grandfather, now aged, to show him the spot. Together they ambled up the mountain to an unmarked area on the map called Ames Pass. While his grandfather lagged behind, Daniel took a short cut and found plane parts lying on the ground. Eventually, he discovered the engine guard and knew he’d chanced upon the site. To mark the spot, he began building a stone cairn, adding to it each time he returned. He also marked the location with a circle of white painted stones so it could be seen from the air.

By 1983, the cairn extended higher than he could reach.

Time went by. Upon returning to the site in 1990, he discovered that someone, possibly kids, had knocked the stones over. This wouldn’t do. Daniel determined to erect a permanent marker.

He contacted Mayes Memorial in Lemont, PA. Yes, they would contribute the memorial stone.

Now came the hard part. To pour a concrete foundation for the marker, he carried 80 pounds of cement and gallons of water hundreds of yards up the steep mountainside. Then he lugged an 87-pound, 18 X 10 X 4-inch gray granite marker to the slab.

Finally, on October 1, 1991, 66 years after Ames crashed, Daniel Lucas cemented the stone memorial in place.

"I decided if I marked Ames, I might as well mark Lamborn (the first pilot to die in the Hell Stretch) because that’s another crash site that would be lost forever." Mayes donated that stone too.

And so Daniel Lucas realized a life-long dream to mark history.

 

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copyright 1999 Nancy Allison Wright, President Air Mail Pioneers


 
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