Pilots Group Founder Turns 80

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Photo by Marie Fasano

Rich Henry, on his 80th birthday, holding his recognition plaque from the Payson Pilots Association surrounded by the “camp follies ladies,” Nancy Ward, Diana Visdas and Coyla McKean.

In his 80 years, Rich Henry’s love of aviation has encouraged him to follow through with many ideas for the Payson community. In 1986 he began the Payson Pilots Association (PPA) and encouraged the members to raise funds to donate to local charities.

Rich and his wife, Doris, started the Crosswinds Restaurant. In this way, the folks flying into Payson, and those from town, could watch the airplanes take off and land during their lunch or dinner while enjoying the fabulous view of the Mogollon Rim. Today, many a child kneels on his chair with face pressed against the window of the restaurant to enjoy watching the airplanes come and go.

History is important to Rich, and he related this story. “I heard about these airway markers and one day while flying around, we saw these white rocks in a meadow.”

He and his friend hiked in to the Milk Ranch Point area in the Coconino National Forest to investigate. What they found was an uncared for piece of historical ground.

In the 1940s this signage was used by pilots to show them the way to Phoenix. He requested and received permission from the U.S. Forest Service for the PPA to take care of the site. Now, once a year near the date of Rich’s birthday, the members of the PPA take a weekend to clean and paint the rocks.

To say “thank you” to Rich for all his involvement with aviation and the community over the years, the PPA awarded him a recognition plaque along with a special birthday party.

It is well known among his friends that Rich loves to dance, so his celebration included a dancing old-time Western camp follies show. The “ladies” dancing for Rich and the crowd on his birthday were Coyla McKean, Diana Visdas and Nancy Ward. 

In his 80th year, Rich Henry deserves a big “thank you,” for years of service to aviation and the community of Payson, said members of the association.

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