At 93, Rita Eaves maintains interest in aviation

Leonard Eaves, at the age of 92, died doing what he loved, flying. He and his wife, Rita, 93, flew together for more than six decades.
BY KYLE SCHWAB kschwab@opubco.com Modified: November 10, 2013 at 5:00 pm •  Published: November 10, 2013
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Rita Eaves misses her husband of 65 years, but takes solace in knowing he died doing what he loved.

Leonard Eaves, 92, lost his life on March 3, 2012, in the crash of his home-built airplane.

“The good Lord took him the way he wanted to go,” said Rita, 93, of Moore. “For the last 10 years, he said, ‘If I have to go, I want to go in the airplane.' And that wasn't his decision, but he got his wish.”

The accident happened on a day Leonard was heading to Ponca City for a monthly fly-in breakfast with some buddies.

“I threw him a kiss and he threw one back,” Rita said. “And that's the last time I saw him.”

While flying over Yukon, Leonard noticed the canopy was loose in his Skeeter 1M airplane. In an attempt to land at Clarence E. Page Municipal Airport to fix the problem, he lost control, crashing the plane.

A National Transportation Safety Board report said he was coming in for a landing when he noticed another airplane on the runway. The fatal accident occurred as he turned his airplane away from the runway.

Rita was taken to the crash site and instantly recognized the plane.

Being able to see the wreckage, as well as knowing Leonard died the way he would have wanted, gave Rita some closure. But she still wishes she could have seen him one last time.

When they first met, she had a big interest in airplanes, but Leonard was afraid of them.

“He had been bombed so many times in World War II that he was afraid of airplanes,” Rita said. “Every time one came over (his auto repair) shop, he would run and take cover.”

Leonard's fear of flying didn't alter her dreams of flight.

After a couple years of easing him into the idea, Rita teamed up with a friend of Leonard's to get him inside a cockpit.

“Leonard took his first ride in an airplane and he crawled out of the airplane and he said, ‘Let's learn to fly,'” she said, imitating Leonard's excitement by throwing her arms up.

Only a month later, Rita and Leonard bought their first plane.

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