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‘Above it all’

Female pilots find satisfaction at former Fly’n B Ranch and runway

Created date

July 23rd, 2013

For me, it s getting above it all flying above the clouds, Ginny Shrader shares with four of her neighbors, three of whom share her passion for flying. When you re up there, everything else goes away, Linda Horn chimes in. They all seem to agree Ginny and Linda, along with Kathie Kuehn Stevens and Irene Walitalo, all former pilots who now live at Wind Crest, site of the former Fly n B Ranch in Highlands Ranch, Colo., that had its own runway and hangar. As Linda says, There s nothing quite like being up there in the sky. Though they all ended up at Wind Crest by different paths, they all have found a similar satisfaction to that freeing sensation of flying at the Erickson Living community from the maintenance-free lifestyle that leaves them without stress to the stunning skyline view of the Colorado foothills from their apartment homes.

Linda Horn

Like all four of the women, Linda discovered flying through her then-husband. Shortly after learning to fly in the 1970s, she joined The Ninety-Nines, an organization founded in 1929 by 99 female pilots, including Amelia Earhart. Through The Ninety-Nines, Linda has participated in numerous air races and events, including an Air Race Classic held at the small airstrip formerly located on the Fly n B Ranch, where Wind Crest stands today. While she didn t fly in the events, she judged them or volunteered in other ways. She also enjoyed a tremendous amount of travel easily afforded by her ability to fly her own airplane. The joy of flying, to me, is mostly because I like to travel. It s the ability to go places, she says. Though Linda stopped flying in 2009 after a windstorm destroyed her airplane, she remains active with The Ninety-Nines. I ve held most of the offices in the local chapter, and I belong to the international committee; I maintain the websites, she says. She travels to meetings around the U.S. with the organization. When asked if she misses that carefree feeling of being above the clouds, Linda says, I don t have any stress at all now since I got rid of that stupid house! I had been living by myself for 30 years and was really fed up with fixing things. She moved to Wind Crest in June 2011 from nearby Golden. The community s round-the-clock home maintenance and on-site restaurants and amenities allow her to spend her time doing things she enjoys, like traveling with The Ninety-Nines, instead of repairing her hot water heater or roof. And while nothing can quite compare to the sensation of flying, she says the views from her Manchester apartment home are a close match.

Ginny Shrader

Like Linda, Ginny learned to fly as a safety measure for her pilot husband. I knew I ought to know how to land the plane if I ever needed to, she says of those early days. I naturally took to it, and once our family came along, we took a lot of trips. Despite learning to fly, Ginny was always content as co-pilot and navigator, but she says her fascination with flying has never ended. It s been a real plus in my life something I certainly never expected, she shares. Ginny says she and her family enjoyed taking trips on their twin-engine Seminole. Together, she and her husband Merrald have logged more than 4,000 hours of flight time throughout their 53 years of marriage. But her real pleasure came from the confidence she gained from learning to fly and the ability to get a different perspective on life. You re above the living here, you can sit back and relax and enjoy everything, she says, referring to Wind Crest s maintenance-free lifestyle. Ginny and Merrald discovered Wind Crest after moving to Florida from Buena Vista, Colo. After being disappointed with Florida retirement communities, they followed their daughter s advice to consider moving back to Colorado. We signed up immediately, Ginny says of their first visit to Wind Crest. It was the only place that made [Merrald] feel like, yes, this is what we were supposed to be doing. They chose a Hawthorne-style apartment home with a lovely view of the mountains and the horizon, Ginny says. We ve loved it since the beginning, but we love it more all the time.

Kathie Kuehn Stevens

Kathie has always wanted to be up in the sky, from an early desire to become a flight attendant to watching her brothers learn to fly to taking flying lessons from her uncle. It s the pleasure of being up above in the clouds, she says, echoing the others, though she admits she also likes the thrill and satisfaction of spot landings. Kathie met her husband Jack in high school and treated him to a flight as her first passenger. After they married, they moved to Evergreen, where they lived until they moved to Wind Crest just a few years ago. We looked around, and [Wind Crest] was far above anything else, Kathie says of similar area retirement communities. She and Jack chose a Kingston-style apartment home overlooking the mountainous horizon. Their lab mix Thumper loves the balcony, where they all sit and enjoy the view up above in the clouds.

Irene Walitalo

When more than 500 miles separated Irene from her family, she did what anyone else would do she learned to fly. My first husband and I lived in Topeka, Kans., but my family moved to Colorado. I didn t get to see them, so I took flying lessons, she says. They bought a Piper Tri-Pacer airplane and visited her family frequently. The joy of flying for me was that we could fly to Denver to see family and take any trips we wanted instead of driving a car, she says. They didn t just travel, though. They trained 13- to 18-year-old students who were interested in flying, taking them up in their Tri-Pacer to teach them about the plane. It was quite an experience, Irene recalls. When her husband died tragically in a car accident, Irene moved to Denver with her young daughter and stopped flying. In 2007, Irene decided to move from her house in nearby Lakewood to Wind Crest, where she chose a luxury two-bedroom, Wyeth-style apartment home overlooking foothills. Like her fellow pilots, she just can t get enough of being above it all.