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September 9, 2013

Rusty Shane Bogue

I and others have posted on FaceBook the news that my brother Rusty Shane Bogue was killed in a tragic airplane accident on Tuesday, August 27, 2013. There have been numerous news stories about the accident some of which are very accurate and some which are not. I want to briefly acknowledge the events that happened – as we know them – and then move on to the man Rusty was and the legacy that he left behind.

On Tuesday I got a text from my brother Casey to call him that it was an emergency. When I called him he told me that Rusty had been in an airplane accident. I packed my things for an overnight visit, grabbed the computers, and headed down to Paris, IL where Rusty lived. It’s a two hour drive to Paris from my house and having heard no further updates and no redirection to the hospital I knew that Rusty had been killed by the time that I had arrived.

Rusty had taken off on a clear day from his home airport in an aircraft that he knew better than any man. It was one of the several Cessna 421 with Riley “Rocket” modifications that Rusty loved so much. He had topped off the fuel tanks to make sure that he had every bit of fuel he might need. The takeoff was in this way as normal as getting up in the morning for him. However, we know now that at some point Rusty feathered the left propeller. That’s an indication that the left engine had failed to produce power. Based on what we know now he attempted to get the aircraft off the ground with only the right engine and ultimately was unsuccessful as he struck trees two fields away from the departure end of the runway.

It will be a year or so before the FAA and NTSB have completed their investigations and have a ruling on the causes of the accident.

So that’s the high-level story of how his life came to an end. However, there’s so much more to his life than the ending. Despite having only 33 years of life he made the most of it. He made friends, developed respected colleagues, and made an impact on the community that won’t be forgotten. WCIA Channel 3 in Champaign reported about his life in their story “Area Pilot Remembered Fondly”

Before I share a few memories and thoughts, I want to say that the observation from the visitation was overwhelming. The family made a decision to have the visitation and funeral in a church to ensure there was sufficient space. Despite this, the response was still overwhelming. The visitation was planned for four hours and ended up going over six hours and had people waiting for over two hours in line just to get a few moments to offer their condolences to the family. We heard of numerous people who weren’t able to stay in line – and many more who wanted to offer relief to the family more than they wanted to offer their condolences on that day. At some point in the near future we’ll count up the number of people who came, however, the estimate is as high as 2,000.

Consider that the community of Paris, IL is only 9,077 people as of the 2000 census – and you realize what an impact Rusty had on his community.

Prior to his death, Rusty and his wife Ann have been embroiled in a fight at the airport from which he did pilot training, pilot services (commercial/charter flight), crop dusting, and maintenance services. I won’t taint this tribute to Rusty by surfacing the hateful and illegal things that were said. You can search the Edgar County Watchdogs site for airport to see much of that protracted battle that stole some of the light from his world during the final 10 months of his life.

That’s the most amazing thing about my brother – the light that he brought to those around him. He shared so much love and so much passion. Certainly his love for flying is transparent. If it flew Rusty knew about it. He was a walking encyclopedia of airplane knowledge. He understood every aspect of flying from power plants to lift generation to parasitic drag and thousands of things that I’ll never understand. Yet if he was just the great pilot and aircraft mechanic we’re still missing so much of who he was.

The truly amazing stories that came to life at the visitation was how Rusty loved to share his passion with others. Student pilots and pilots who had completed their training with Rusty showed up – as did airline captains who had the opportunity to work with Rusty while he was training. He simply loved learning and teaching. He ignited a passion for flying into others.

Still we’re looking at such a small sliver of the man he was. Others shared what I already knew – Rusty was always ready to lend a hand when he could. It didn’t matter if it was person with a flat tire or if it was someone who wanted to be able to be in a General Lee Charger. Story after story came to life of how Rusty gave what he had in terms of time, shared what he had in terms of resources and toys to help make lives brighter.

And that’s what the public got to see. A man who was dedicated to leaving the world a better place when he was done than when he began. I got to see more. I got to see his absolute undying love for his wife Ann and his love for his daughter MJ. I had the honor of taking Rusty and Ann’s engagement photos. We took the one which was used most frequently in a Cessna 421 with Riley “Rocket” modifications much like the one he flew last. This picture captured – quite accidentally – a moment when it was just the two of them in each other’s love.

That was just one of the loving looks that I saw over the last five years – and for the years preceding it. He adored Ann. He was lost before reconnecting with her. He had numerous unfinished projects random debts and diversions. Before he proposed I saw him gain focus, loose the distractions, and prepare to provide for her – though she was quite capable of providing for herself.

Through my struggles, research, and wrestling, I’ve come to realize that love isn’t a feeling, it’s a series of actions. It’s a constant commitment to put someone else ahead of you. I saw him do things for Ann – small and large – time and time again.

When he found out Ann was pregnant with MJ, he was scared. He thought with four brothers he knew how to do boys. He was scared that he didn’t know how to be a good father to a girl. Yet, I have so much video evidence that he was an excellent father. I already knew he would be a good father because he was such a good uncle to my son, Alex. I knew that his passion for people and teaching would make him as good a father as anyone could hope for.

The very last time I saw him was only slightly more than a week before his death. We didn’t get much time to visit because I was taking engagement pictures for Casey and Karen – and because he was pressure washing a swing set for MJ. He had been up working on the business earlier in the day. He had to clear the trailer to get the pressure washer up on it. On this – like many other Saturdays – he was working to make MJ happy – to give her the things to help her develop into the wonderful woman he hoped to someday see.

Rusty will never get to meet the unborn child that Ann still carries but I know that he would have been an amazing father to this child as well.

I realize that reading this blog you probably never got the honor of knowing Rusty. I consider myself lucky for the 33 years of his life that I got to share a part of. I cherish the fact that he was able to sign off on my biannual review for flying. I wish I had spent more time with him. I wish that I had found a way to be more in his world – however, I can hold on to memories of our flying trip to Mount Rushmore. I love that we managed to get a trip to Mammoth cave together for all us boys two years ago.

I need to end this tribute with a simple request. A memorial fund has been setup in Rusty’s name for his children. Would you consider some sort of a donation – of any amount – to make the burden that Ann faces raising the children a little easier? I know the family will rally around her but I also know that being able to step away from work to raise the children for a while would be a blessing. A button for the donation appears below.

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