Hail Mary And Tom’s Final Flight

Posted: Monday, May 14, 2012 at 2:30 pm
By: Doug Lund
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Hope you all had a pleasant Mother’s Day.

I got to spend some time with my mom on Sunday. (Okay..Mother-in-LAW)

Mary Trudeau, the matriarch of my wife’s clan, has had kind of a rough go of it in this, her 88th year. Her constant companion these days is an oxygen tank and a hose in her nose but her wits are still about her and that fabulous smile is always at the ready even when she’s not feeling all that chipper which now is the case more often than not.

Mary and Len Trudeau raised 8 kids in their little Alcester, South Dakota house and, Sunday, seven of those offspring gathered around the home kitchen table for what could be the last time. Len has been gone for a dozen years now and Mary..though still plenty feisty..has had to admit that she can no longer live alone so she’ll be staying with daughter, Maria and son-in-law Paul on their Sioux Center farm until she gets better or needs full-time professional care.

(L to R) Chad, Linda, Maria, Renee, Cynthia, Shelle. Seated is Mother Mary, of course.

(L to R)At the table with mother mary are Chad, Linda, Maria, Renee, Cynthia, Shelle. Not picture are Jeff and Bill.

But Sunday wasn’t a sad occasion; never is when the Trudeau’s get together..laughter abounds. Still there was the unmistakable sense of finality in everyone’s glistening eyes at having to face and accept the reality of mortality.  It’s tough to realize there’ll be no more of Mary’s roast beef or fried chicken dinners and home-made fruit pies served up from that tiny kitchen. But it will be tougher still when we lose the amazing lady who made that house a home.


tom sullenbergerLinda got to hear Captain Sully Sullenberger speak for the Sanford nurses gathering a few nights ago. He’s the U.S. Airways pilot who force landed his plane in New York’s Hudson River when it hit a flock of geese on take-off  conking out the engines. Everyone on board survived the ordeal and Sullenberger became a national hero.Linda said he was a marvelous speaker..and humble too..saying he was no different than any other pilot thanks to the rigorous and continuous training that all airlines require.

Speaking of pilots. I found out this past week that my kid brother, Tom, has officially decided to give up the love of his life…well, his first love after God and family, of course.

Tom, like Sully, has made a career in the clouds. He graduated from SDSU in 1972 then joined the Air Force as a 2nd Lieutenant fresh out of ROTC. Before long he was training to fly jet fighters which he did for the next 8 years of active duty and 14 more in the Air Guard. It was during his time in the guard that Tom began searching for a job flying commercial airliners. After brief stints with the now defunct Air Florida and People Express, he landed a pilot’s gig with Continental. On May 20th, he’ll close out  32 years in the skies with a final flight to Geneva. His wife, Ilene and daughter Erin will be among the passengers for that journey to Switzerland and back.  

Capt. Lund inspects the landing gear prior to flight

Capt. Lund inspects the landing gear prior to flight

I wish I could tag along. I’ve never been on an airplane flown by my brother and it would be great fun to sneak into the cockpit and visit with the co-pilot and navigator to tell them about what a terrible driver Tom used to be on the ground.

Actually, in all his years and all the hours in the left seat he’s only had a couple emergencies i.e.: engine failures. But in both instances, Just like Capt. Sully said, the years of training and experience came to the forefront and he was able to bring the passengers, crew and aircraft to a safe landing.

Both my brother, Denny and I couldn’t  be more proud of all Tom has accomplished..especially after he suffered a brain aneurism while jogging twelve years ago.  Thanks to his ever present guardian angel, though, Tom not only survived but made a complete recovery.

May that same angel continue to be at your side as you safely soar over the Alps and home again next week. And, may you find satisfaction and comfort in your retirement knowing that you have had the rare honor of actually living the life written about here in the poignant poem “High Flight”   

 Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

In good hands

In good hands



  1. joanie says:

    What an awesome blog Doug–we were hoping to visit Mary and the rest of the family but our darling
    daughters surprised me with a nice cook out at daughter Karin’s! Family-time is always special, especially on Mother’s Day!!
    Next, your tribute to brother Tom was amazing—-and, considering I have had the pleasure of spending some time with him, it was well deserved. He is truly a specail person!!

  2. Lisa Hirch says:

    Doug . pass this on to your brother .. I know that he’ll smile….
    Because I fly …
    .. I laugh more than other men
    I look up and see more then they.
    I know how the clouds feel.
    What it’s like to have the blue in my lap,
    to look down on birds,
    to feel the freedom in a thing called a stick …
    Who but I can slice between God’s bllowed legs,
    and feel them laugh and crash with his step?
    Who else has seen the unclimbed peaks?
    The rainbows secret?
    The real reason birds sing?
    Because I FLY .. i envy no man on earth ..

    Lisa Hirsch

  3. Lynnal Nelson says:

    Congratulations to little Tom………..Who knew he could grow up & be so responsible??? He was always Dougs little brother to me!!!

  4. Suzan says:

    Great pics! It’s hard to imagine Grandma T not in the house in Alcester, but so grateful she is still with us and still feisty. It’s also hard to imagine Uncle Tom retiring from flying. Where does the time go?

  5. JDS says:

    Boy…He must be from a different family. He doesn’t look anything like Doug or the other Lund’s! –LOL, much sarcasm to be read into that comment.

  6. Denny says:

    Brother Tom has flown hundreds of thousands of passengers around the world.
    When I once traded a llama for an airplane, I found absolutely no one that wanted a ride with me!
    CONGRATS on a well earned retirement, “Squirt”

  7. Judy Magnus says:

    Congratulations to your brother, Tom and his wife , on their retirement. The wives spend many holidays and special events without their husband. The next generation is ready to take over. My sister, Jean Knutson Hetlet, who I think was in Tom’s high school class, youngest son is a captain for Virgin America based out of San Francisco, CA. So if ever flying out of Chicago, CA, several large airports out east, Fl, Mexico and etc. and your pilots name is Jason, your in good hands !!!! We are proud of him as you are of Tom.
    Thanks Doug for the great blogs.

  8. Jean (Knutson) Hetlet says:

    Congratulations Tom and Ilene!!! It has been a great career, but now you can fly to all those places and actually see them together!! Hope all is well!!
    I really enjoyed your blog about First Lutheran and Sunday School, Doug. Mrs. Hesby was one special lady as were many in our church. It is always fun to read what you and Grouse write about Volga!!

    Keep up the great work on all you do!!

  9. Tom says:

    Thanks Doug for the tribute. I have been blessed with the opportunity to do a job that I have truely loved. It was special to have Ilene and Erin, son-in-law Tate, and daughter-in-law Susan along to share in this final memory. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face from the takeoff in Newark to the landing in Geneva. On the return flight, there were many poignant moments. It was hitting me hard that everything I was doing was for the last time. The smile on my face was still there, but it was accompanied by tears in my eyes. The aviation door was closing, but a whole new exciteng stage of life is beginning.
    It is an Air Force traditiion to hose down a pilot after an initial solo flight or a retirement “fini” flight. When I was taxiing my 767 to the gate on Sunday, I was met by 2 fire trucks that made a beautiful cascading water tribute to a long career. It seems like only yesterday that I was just starting out. Time Flies!!

    Thanks again, Tom

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