It’s been five years since Tom Weiss died in a mid-air plane collision, but friends and family continue to honor his legacy every year on Labor Day.
Friends in the aviation community, fellow firefighters, teaching staff at Roseburg High School and fellow members of Redeemer’s Fellowship church met for the fifth annual Tom Weiss Labor Day Fly-in at George Felt Field in Roseburg to raise college scholarship money for deserving students.
Aircraft lined the side of the grass field alongside tents, fresh kettle corn, a barbecue truck and a silent auction. Firefighters helped children run through a firefighter’s obstacle course.
The event included helicopters from REACH Air Ambulance and the Douglas Forest Protective Association remote control airplane demonstrations. Fifteen planes, two ultralights and three helicopters attended the event.
Tom Weiss, who died in a crash in the High Sierras in Nevada in October 2014, was a captain for the Winston Dillard Fire Department, a pilot for the Douglas Forest Protective Association and a 24-year resident of Roseburg.
In addition to honoring the life of Tom Weiss, his wife, Jennifer Weiss, daughter, Julia Weiss and son, Davis Weiss, announced Gretchen Lucido as the recipient of a $500 scholarship.
Larry and Kelly Lucido accepted the scholarship on behalf of their daughter. Gretchen Lucido, who is already attending Montana State University in Bozeman, viewed the announcement with the help of Facetime.
Davis Weiss, who is also a pilot and a fireman, said the choice was easy.
“Gretchen was a really obvious choice for the committee this year. She is an honor student, student leader, varsity track athlete, member of the high school robotics team and also serves the community through her many volunteer opportunities,” Davis Weiss said.
Gretchen Lucido was selected for “reflecting the essence of Tom Weiss,” which included integrity, positivity, passionate pursuit of a hobby or activity, responsibility and spirit of adventure.
“That’s why she’s at Montana State,” said Kelly Lucido, her mother. “She likes to volunteer, likes to be outside and she’s outgoing.”
Jennifer Weiss said her husband would have been proud of this year’s winner of the scholarship.
“Tom would have been excited,” she said. “Gretchen is a lovely young lady.”
Money for the scholarships is raised from donations and a silent auction. This year, the family was able to secure a signed baseball bat from Reggie Jackson and a signed electric guitar from Billie Jo Armstrong of the band Green Day. Local businesses provided donations, including members of Roseburg Firefighters Local 1110 donated all proceeds from fresh kettle corn at the event to the scholarship fund.
Jennifer Weiss said this year’s fly-in raised more than $2,300 for scholarships, nearly matching the $2,500 raised from the previous four fly-ins combined.
Eric Giusto, an engineer for the Winston Dillard Fire Department, knew Tom Weiss for almost 20 years and worked under him at the department for several years.
Giusto said you always knew where Tom Weiss stood.
“Right was right and wrong was wrong, and I really appreciated that about him. And he loved to fly, oh my goodness, he loved to fly,” Giusto said. “His loss had a big impact and it still does today. We miss him greatly.”
Aircraft at the event included a 1977 Maule, M5-235 flown by Tom Donnelly, who came all the way from Seattle with his wife, Susan Parker.
The couple met Tom Weiss at Johnson Creek, Idaho, six years ago. While bad weather stopped them a few times in years past, Monday provided a perfect opportunity to fly down and pay tribute to Tom Weiss.
“It’s a good cause, we’ve been trying to get down here for a couple of years but got weathered out,” Donnelly said.