Remember When: Remembering Lewis and Eliza Cait

Published 8:00 am Saturday, April 21, 2018

Another obit email, this one about friend Lewis Hawkins.

An acquaintance, really, but if you knew him, he made you feel like he was your friend. I have known Lewis since I retired and rejoined my Baptist church here. A tall, quiet man, he was also a straight arrow Christian citizen. I’m sure his late wife Georgie would have had him no other way! Now they are together forever…

Whenever they came to McDonald’s, I would go over to their booth and visit with Georgie while Lewis ordered and picked up their breakfast. She never lost her dry wit as she held up her end of our conversations.    

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I cannot get that color photo of Eliza Caitlyn Millwood, shown with her obit email from Petty, out of my mind for long. “Eliza Cait” was only 10, and had lived a full and purposeful life already, but to have it end so early was just too much for this old heart.

I still get a lump and tear up even as I try to write this. No, I never met her. But I have to realize that, like my nephew Steve, she had accomplished whatever her Lord had set for her to do here, so it was time to call her home.  

The “carpenter Gothic” Church of the Transfiguration in Saluda has been an inspiration to me since I first saw it. I had turned up its street, admiring its setting among large dogwoods, before getting glimpses of the building itself. It really does look like I think a church ought to look!

I got to study its interior as I attended funeral services of friends there. No, it is not the Washington Cathedral, built of the finest marble and other durable materials over more than a century, but the modest wooden structure is actually some 20 years older than the Cathedral!

The Saluda church was fashioned perhaps more lovingly by its first priest and his parishioners. That story is part of its inspirational aspect for this designer-builder of my dream house when I retired. 

I delight in sharing my story of trying to decide whether to be an architect or an aeronautical engineer. I was drawing house plans and airplanes from age 9, when a relative taught me how to make scale drawings. I reversed the plans for our house back then when suggested by Aunt Mildred.

I drew plans for the Presbyterian manse from sketches by Matt O’Shields, and saw it built by J.S. “Dick” Kell exactly as I had drawn it! Pretty good stuff for a 17-year-old…

But using part of my summer earnings at the lumber yard to learn to fly airplanes swayed me toward airplane design. I had secured an interview with Tryon architect Arthur Laidler Jones, which caused me to apply to the North Carolina State School of Design. Too poor for college, I was able to enlist in the Air Force by selecting my tech school before going in.

There, I met a great architect friend, Jack Blackwood, who had completed four years at Auburn, and was making beautiful drawings for shoring up the sagging wooden trusses in the World War II-era hangars.

So, I was accepted again at NC State, intending to use the Korean GI Bill. However, the airplane bug was biting harder, so I went that route because I knew of only two kinds of architects: rich, or starving.

I never got rich designing airplanes, but I did not starve either! Got my name on some pretty great airplanes, too — the Boeing 747 (still in production after some 50 years) and the F-18 Super Hornet, now being flown by the Navy’s Blue Angels.