Head in the clouds, heart with his family

Allison "Al" Maye had a passion for flying and for joking with his daughters

Allison "Al" Maye had a passion for flying and for joking with his daughters

July 23, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail will run "A Life Remembered." This continuing series will take a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Allison "Al" G. Maye, who died July 10 at the age of 84. His obituary appeared in the July 12 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

Jacqueline Maye came home from school one day when she was in the second or third grade, anxious to tell her father what she had learned from a magician who visited her class.

"I got up on dad's lap and told him I was going to hypnotize him," she said, demonstrating how she spoke and waved her hand in front of his face.

All of a sudden, her father slumped in his chair and didn't respond when Jacqueline clapped her hands like the magician at school had done.


"Well, I flew off his lap ... screaming for mom," she said. Just then, her father yelled for her to come back, saying he had been joking with her.

Al Maye, who died July 10 at the age of 84, had a reputation as a prankster. His wife and three daughters learned quickly that was part of his charm. And there was a touch of irony there, too.

"We met on a blind date at a Halloween party in 1948 at the old City Hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va.," said Dorcas Maye from the Fountain Head home she shared with her husband since 1962.

Married in 1949, Dorcas and Al had three daughters - Kathy, who now lives in California; Jacqueline of Mesa, Ariz.; and the youngest, Susan, who lives in Richmond, Va.

Throughout his life, family and flying were Al's passions.

The love of flying began during his senior year in high school, when Al won a flight scholarship through a government-sponsored pilot program.

He took free flying lessons, and earned his private pilot's license that same year. After graduation, Al was inducted into the U.S. Air Force, where he was commissioned as a second lieutenant.

Training on the P-40 Warhawk and the P-51 Mustang, Al was less than two weeks away from being shipped overseas when World War II ended.

After marrying Dorcas and moving to Hagerstown, Al went to work at Fairchild Aircraft, writing technical journals for the C-199 aircraft. He quickly advanced to corporate pilot and test pilot.

"His favorite plane was the STOL Turbo-Porter, or the Porter as it was commonly known," Dorcas said. "I took trips with Al on the Porter to Alaska and Mexico."

All three girls said they grew up hearing travel tales from their father.

"I love to travel ... we all do," Kathy said.

Kathy's son, Brian Lawson, went into the U.S. Navy and flew jets, so he and his grandfather - known as "Pap" - had a lot to talk about when they got together, she said.

Al taught Brian how to drive a car when he was a teenager, promising him they only would drive around the Fountain Head development. But Brian's sister, Kara Lawson, said Brian soon found himself out on the main highway at his grandfather's urging.

Kara remembers her Pap feeding her won-ton soup when she still was in a high chair.

"Pap gave it to me and I loved it," she said. "I still love it today."

Susan stressed that her father always had a positive attitude and seemed to enjoy everything he did, even things most people would find tedious.

"He encouraged all of us to do the best we could and to take pride in our efforts," Susan said.

In his glory

That's the way Al lived his life, Dorcas said. He was in his glory during the 20 years he demonstrated and marketed the Porter airplane for Fairchild - the company for whom he worked 40 years.

He met some of the rich and famous during his career, including the late Nelson Rockefeller, who contacted Fairchild to lease a Porter so he could inspect his 1 million acres in Venezuela.

Al was Rockefeller's pilot on that trip. During his career, he also flew Arnold Palmer and Arthur Godfrey, and became friends with "Gunsmoke" star James Arness, who wanted to buy a Porter for his personal use on his California ranch.

It was a busy life, but all three of his daughters emphasized their father always made the time to be with his family when he was home.

"He brought us things and took us places," Jacqueline said. "Dad always played with us, and was very interested in our schooling."

After listening to Jacqueline's tale of their father's magician prank, Kathy offered a tale of how when she was about 12, her father made her wear a rather bizarre get-up in a horseback riding costume competition.

Always a horse fancier, Kathy said her father made her up to look like the headless horseman from the Washington Irving tale. The costume was complete with a sword and a rather gory stump of a neck atop her head.

"I frightened little children with that costume," Kathy said. "But I won."

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