For many, flying is a love like no other. It is an opportunity to see the world from a completely different angle. It is an opportunity to discover new places, meet new friends and, for one Alcona County octogenarian, it was a way to find a new home.
Terrence (Terry) Boucher (pronounce Bu-shay) and his wife, Paula, explained they found their retirement home by flying into the Harrisville International Airport for the Harrisville Harmony Weekend Art and Crafts Show.
Terry retired from being manager of the Harrisville Airport last fall, a job he took over about 10 years ago from Jack Brewer after Terry and Paula moved to Alcona County.
The art show was something of interest to Paula, who had a home business making rubber stamps, which she sold at art fairs. Terry, who had been a pilot for several years, had his own plane, a Cessna 175, which he flew to northern Michigan from their home in Rockport, Mich.
“We liked the area... We thought it would be a good place to retire and bought 20 acres of land,” Terry said. For several years they had a trailer they parked on the land and flew in and camped for the weekend. Just before retiring from jobs downstate they built a house.
Managing a northeastern Michigan airport, or even flying an airplane, wasn’t exactly on the agenda for Terry when he was growing up in Wyandotte, Mich. It wasn’t until much later in life the now 81-year-old took his first flying lesson from a friend and was smitten by the love of flight.
“He had a friend, Lonnie Gardner, who had a pilot’s license and an airplane. He’d call Terry and ask him to come flying with him. I’d talk to Lonnie and ask him why Terry didn’t just take flying lessons since he enjoyed it so much. One day Terry came home from work really late and told me he had just had his first flying lesson,” Paula said.
Terry continued taking lessons and got his pilot’s license. He spent a lot of time at the Grosse Ile Municipal Airport which was about 10 minutes away from where the couple lived. He’d often go flying with other pilots just to get lunch someplace.
He and Paula explained it was during this time when their friend, Lonnie, and some other pilots were involved in a plane crash, which killed three of the men including Lonnie. The loss, however, didn’t squelch Terry’s love of flying and he ended up purchasing his Cessna from one of the crash survivors who lost interest in flying.
Terry’s greatest flying adventure was when he and two other pilots took a commercial flight to Bolivia where one of the men purchased a Cessna 185. The pilots took turns flying the small plane across the Amazon jungle, through Guiana and then island hopped their way back to the states.
“You haven’t seen a tree until you’ve seen its shadow from the sky.”
“I was surprised after we left the mainland in South America how close the islands are in the Caribbean. We were never out of sight of land,” Terry said.
The trip, however, wasn’t exactly a smooth journey as the men had trouble with the plane using too much fuel and had to land on the French island of Martinique. It took the pilots a few days to get the problem fixed, luckily Terry could speak some French and was able to talk to the FBO (Fixed Base Operator) at the airport there who helped them. “Thank goodness I could talk to him, otherwise we would probably still be there,” Terry quipped.
Paula, who was busy working as an occupational therapist for handicap children in Rockport, spent most of her time fretting about Terry while they were off having their island-hopping adventure. “He would call me occasionally to let me know he was okay, but then I didn’t hear from him. There were no cell phones at that time. I really thought I was never going to see him again. I was worried. It was at a time when a lot of drug cartels were shooting down planes,” Paula said.
Terry explained they were stuck in Brazil for three days and couldn’t make calls out because the people there only spoke Portuguese. Terry, who is somewhat of a linguist, could speak Spanish, but didn’t know any Portuguese. “Paula thought I crashed in the jungle or got shot down. We were going through areas where those shootings were happening, but I finally came home,” Terry said.
In addition to speaking Spanish, some French and German, Terry can speak a bit of Polish too, something he learned while growing up in Wyandotte which he said was half Polish at the time. “I had a chum who was Polish, and his grandmother couldn’t speak any English. She would make duck soup, Czarnina, oh man, was that good. I learned to speak Polish so I could ask her for food,” Terry said.
When he wasn’t flying, Terry worked as a deputy for the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department, a job he held for 26 years.
He explained even at a young age growing up the eldest of three children he was restless for adventure. High school didn’t interest him, and he was eventually kicked out of school for being truant too often. He found a job working at a drapery studio the same day the school kicked him out.
While working at the studio, he eventually finished high school and graduated. After a few years at the studio job Terry felt he wasn’t making enough money and asked his father, who knew a lot of people, to assist him in finding another job. His dad hooked Terry up with a manager at a paper mill who found him a job at the Detroit Sulfite Paper Company which became the Scott Paper Company.
Terry fell in love and married by the age of 20 and quickly had three children. Because of having a family to support, he was considered 3A and was not drafted into the military.
Unfortunately, the marriage ended in divorce. In the 1960s it was common for women to get full custody of the children in a divorce and his ex-wife took their children to live in Florida, severing any ties he had with them.
“I ended up working for the Scott Paper Company for about 12 years and then quit to become a steeplejack putting up radio towers over a hundred feet in the air in all kinds of weather. I did that for four years until one of my friends convinced me to take the civil service exam for Wayne County,” Terry said.
Terry and Paula met at a pool party on August 3, 1968. Paula said she knew he was her prince charming the minute he walked through the door. The couple dated for years and talked about marriage, but even though Paula was ready, Terry wasn’t.
With no marriage plans on the horizon, Paula decided, while vacationing in Hawaii, that she loved the island too much to leave and moved there. They remained friends and kept in touch. Eventually, Terry took a vacation to Hawaii. By this time, he was ready to think about marriage, but Paula wasn’t and really wasn’t too keen on him even coming to Hawaii for a visit. While there, Terry fell in love with the island too and decided to take the civil service exam to be a part of the police department there.
After returning to Michigan he found out that he passed the exam and he was offered a job. He made a second trip to the island in 1977 and asked Paula if she wanted him to live on the island with her. “That conversation turned into a wedding on the beach and a really good marriage,” Terry said.
Paula explained while she loved the island, she missed her big family in Pennsylvania and friends she made while attending Wayne State University. The couple decided Terry should keep the job in Michigan where they would make their home.
Terry gave up flying about three years ago due to some minor health issues and said it was the right thing to do, for his safety and the safety of people on the ground.
Terry’s love for adventure never waned throughout his life. In addition to his own piloting adventures, he has been all over the world on commercial flights. He has been above the Arctic Circle and to Alaska; spent a month in Africa; has visited most of Europe including France, England, Germany and Italy. He has also been to Ireland, Japan and New Zealand.
He and Paula just recently returned from a two-month trip to San Antonio, Texas, but of all the places he has been, Terry said, “There is still no place like home.”
Mick Higgins was named the new manager of the Harrisville International Airport upon Terry’s retirement. The runway can be found south off Walker Road, west of US-23 in Harrisville. For more information about the airport, call (989) 739-3385.