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source of the gallery 


All partially copy-paste (copier-coller, partiellement) by
THE EARLY BIRDS OF AVIATION, Inc.
An organization of pioneers who flew solo before December 17, 1916
  

FOREIGN PIONEER FLYERS  PIONNIERS √ČTRANGERS 

Photos of the national library of FRANCE   (
1907-1921 more

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Gallery 1, Early Years, 1911-1912  
GALLERY 2 EARLY YEARS & NORTH ISLAND 1912-JUNE, 1915
Gallery 3, Chicago, 1915-1916
Gallery 5 Johnson Airplane & Supply 1920-1925
Gallery 6, Barnstorming, 1923-1925
Gallery 7, First Diesel Flight,1927-1931
Gallery 8, Endurance Flight, 1931

Gallery 9, Post Endurance Flight, 1931
Gallery 10, EARLY BIRDS OF AVIATION 1932 TO 1993
Gallery 10-1, Miscellaneous, 1931 TO 1941
Gallery 11, War Years, 1940 TO 1946
Gallery 12, POST WAR, 1947-1957






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Gallery 1, Early Years, 1911-1912
 

 
  Someday It Will Be Me!
The first time he saw an aeroplane was in Ashland, Wisconsin, September 1911. This was just eight years after the Wright Brothers made their first official heavier-than-air flight. Walter was fascinated. He played hooky from his job as chauffer and spent the day at the fair grounds watching them "set the plane up". In those days, they took the planes apart, crated them and shipped them by train from one city to another.
     Shortly thereafter, Walter signed up with the Aero Exhibition Company to learn to fly. After some weeks in St. Augustine, Florida, he discovered that the whole deal was a scam. He next managed to find employment with Tom Benoist. 
 
Click Thumbnail to Enlarge Picture & View Text
 

 
Curtiss Ad in Town & Country
July, 1911
Aviation Ads, Town & Country
July, 1911
Beckwith Havens
Ashland, WI
September, 1911
Walter The Chauffer
September, 1911
Benoist
Ashland, WI
1911
Walter Lees & Otto Brodie
St. Augustine, FL
January, 1912
Walter in a Bleriot Type XI
St Augustine
January, 1912
Otto Brodie & Farman Biplane, 
St. Augustine
March,1912
Benoist Tractor
Type XII, No. 31
June, 1912
Lees In A Benoist
November, 1912
Benoist Wreck
Kinloch, MO
May, 1912
Cicero Field, Chicago, 1912
Beckwith Havens
Charlottesville, VA
1912
Benoist Tractor Type Biplane Capo's Launch
St. Augustine, FL, 1912
Korn Brothers,1911

 

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GALLERY 2 EARLY YEARS & NORTH ISLAND 1912-JUNE, 1915
 

 
  After his experiences in St. Augustine, Walter got a job working for Tom Benoist in St. Louis. It was there that he made his first and unauthorized solo. Walter next went to North Island near San Diego, CA in the Spring of 1914. Curtiss had established his school on the island in January of 1911. Walter attended the Curtiss School until mid 1915 when he graduated and left for Chicago. While at the school, he qualified on both the land and sea planes. His first job after graduating was flying a Curtiss F-Boat owned by Steward McDonald in Chicago.

 
Click Thumbnail to Enlarge Picture & View Text
 

 
Benoit Factory
May, 1912
Benoist at The Bluffs
California Pass
Lieut. Towers Flying Boat Run
May, 1913
First Scheduled Airline
December, 1914
First Scheduled Airline , Tony Jannus 1914 Benoist Commemorative Flight, 1984 Raymond V. Morris
in E Boat, 1913
Langley, 1914
Curtiss Flying Boat, North Island
Jan. 26, 1915
Curtiss School Boat, North Island
Jan. 26, 1915
Walter at Coronado Beach
Cal. Feb. 7, 1915
Lunch at Curtiss Camp
North Island, 1915
Cal. Feb. 7, 1915
Jimmy Johnson & Walter
North Island, Apr. 4, 1915
Walter & "Jim",
North Island, 1915
Walter & Land Tractor, North Island, 1915 Walter & "The Gang", 1915


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Gallery 3, Chicago, 1915-1916
  

  On June 17, 1915, Walter married Loa Lloyd. He continued flying the Curtiss F-Boat "Alice" for Steward McDonald. He was primarily involved in carrying passengers for joyrides over Lake Michigan and Lake Geneva. Later, he flew for the Curtiss Airplane Company in Buffalo on Lake Erie. Forrest Wysong, later President of the Early Birds of Aviation, recalls flying with Walter in an F-Boat. 
 
Click Thumbnail to Enlarge Picture & View Text
 

 
Walter Marries
Loa Lloyd
June 17, 1915
Launching F-Boat, 1915 Curtiss F-Boat "Alice"
Chicago
June, 1915
Curtiss F-Boat "Alice"
Chicago
June, 1915
Loa & Walter in the 
Curtiss F-Boat "Alice"
June, 1915
Curtiss F-Boat "Alice"
Illinois Naval Militia
June, 1915
Walter & Loa Lees
June, 1915
Curtiss F Boat "Alice"
Lake Geneva
June, 1915
Curtiss F-Boat, 1915 Curtiss F-Boat, 1915 Ray Applegate's Hydro-plane, 1915? Curtiss F-Boat "Alice", Lake Geneva
June, 1915
Curtiss F-Boat at Lake Geneva
June, 1915
Fifteen Small Photos from the Book, 
ST. NICHOLAS Published by The Century Co., 1915
Waterskiers 
Luke Field, Hawaii



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Gallery 4, Newport News, World War I, 1915-1917
  The Anchorage 1916 
When Loa and Walter arrived in Newport News, they were lucky enough to find housekeeping rooms in Dr. Pressy's house. The Pressey house was called "The Anchorage". It still stands at 411 Chesapeake Avenue.
     Walter is quoted:
"Our first baby, Betty, was born March 9, 1916. I was at the station when Aunt Emma called me and said Loa had started to have labor pains and was going to the hospital.
     I was so excited, Captain Tom said Ted Hequemburg should fly me there. The hospital was across the street from Hampton Roads. We landed right in front of the hospital and nosed the flying boat up on the shore. I rushed into the hospital in my flying clothes, helmet and goggles, demanding, 'Where's my wife?'"
 She had had to walk from our house and hadn't arrived yet. 
 
Click on Thumbnail to Enlarge Pictures & View Text
 

Atlantic Coast Aeronautical Station
December, 1915
Atlantic Coast Aeronautical Station
December, 1915
Curtiss H-10
Atlantic Coast Aeronautical Station
December, 1915
Curtiss Aviation School or
Atlantic Coast Aeronautical Station
1916
Pilots at Newport News, 1916
Pilots at Newport News, 1916 Pilots at Newport News, 1916 Gen.William Mitchell
Spring, 1917
General Mitchell's Daughters
Spring, 1917
World War I Schools
Chanute, Selfridge, Ellington
Gerstner, Brooks, 1917
Earl Southee
Princeton Flying School
June, 1917
Paul Culver
Princeton Flying School
June, 1917
Princeton Flying School
June, 1917
Katherine Stinson
August, 1919
Walter & Loa Lees
August, 1919
Mrs. A.S. Heinrich
August, 1919
Curtiss Jennies, 1917-1918


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Gallery 5 Johnson Airplane & Supply 1920-1925
  Barnstorming 1919-1923
Walter worked for the Oregon, Washington & Idaho Airplane Company. Vic Vernon was the chief pilot. They had Curtiss Jennys (JN-4s), Oriole land planes, and Curtiss F and M-F Flying Boats.
     Walter flew both land planes and boats to The Dalles, Oregon, and land planes to Pendleton, mostly carrying passengers.
     In the fall of 1922, Walter went with Johnson Aeroplane and Supply Company, located in Dayton, Ohio. He worked with Al Johnsonand his good friend from the Curtiss flying school in San Diego, Jimmy Johnson. Al and Jimmy were not related.

 
Click on Thumbnail to Enlarge Picture & View Text
 

 
Oregon-Washington-Idaho
Airplane Co.
February-May, 1920
Oregon-Washington-Idaho
Airplane Co.
February-May, 1920
Foster Russell Aviation
September, 1920
La Grande Aircraft Co.,April, 1920 La Grande Aircraft Co., August, 1920
La Grande Aircraft Co.
Walter in His "Standard", April, 1920
La Grande Aircraft Co.
Walter & Jenny No. 1, 1920
La Grande Aircraft Co.
Walter in a Jenny, 1920
La Grande Aircraft Co.
Walter & Family, La Grande, 1920
Dayton Wright Seaplane,
June, 1922
Johnson Flying Service
Fall, 1922
Johnson Airplane & Supply, 1922 Walter, Al, & Jimmy
Johnson Airplane & Supply, 1922
The Johnsons
Johnson Airplane & Supply, 1922
Johnson Airplane & Supply Co. 1922 Johnson Flying Service
Coffee, Tea or Milk? 1923
Johnson Airplane & Supply Co. 1922 Kenneth Lane & Walter
September, 1922

Walter, Army, 1923 Paul Dodd Culver (Jim) & Walter,
Dayton, 1924
Driggs-Johnson Canary, 
March, 1925
Johnson Flying Service
1927


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Gallery 6, Barnstorming, 1923-1925
 

 
  Lucky Friday the 13th 1924
Walter was a mechanic with the U.S. Army Air Service at Wilbur Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio. On Friday, 13, 1924, he made an historic parachute jump.
     "It was a German L.V.G. We'd given the 220 HP German Benz engine an hour long ground test. The RPM's were 1400. The weather was perfect for a test flight, clear with a slight northwest wind. I ran the engine until the water temperature was 150 degrees. I put on an Irvin Parachute I'd borrowed from McCook Field.
---I lost control and the plane whipped itself into a steep left bank and would have gone into a barrel roll if I hadn't immediately given it full power. I knew I couldn't land. I was only at 150 feet when I knew I had to jump".
     I'd never used a parachute before, but I'd been told what to do: jump clear of the plane, count three, and pull the ring. I knew if I did it that way, I'd be on the ground before it opened. So I figured the only thing to do was to let go of the stick, (the plane went into a 70 degree bank and skid and with one movement, open my seat belt, step up on the seat, and pull the chute ring the same time I jumped. Miraculously, I missed getting tangled in the tail."
 
 
Click on Thumbnails to Enlarge Picture & View Text
 

 
International Air Meet
St. Louis, MO, 1923
Program of Events
International Air Meet
St. Louis, MO, 1923
Navy-Curtiss
International Air Meet
St. Louis, MO, 1923
Army Air Service
International Air Meet
St. Louis, MO, 1923
Three Entries
International Air Meet
St. Louis, MO, 1923
Hartzell FC-1
International Air Meet
St. Louis, MO, 1923
Verville-Sperry Racer
International Air Meet
St. Louis, MO, 1923
Navy Wright Racer
International Air Meet
St. Louis, MO, 1923
Pulitzer Trophy Race
Stout Air Sedan
Detroit, 1923
"Maiden Detroit"
Stout Metal Aeroplane Co.
Detroit, 1924
First Ford-Stout Trimotor
German LVG 
June, 1924
German LVG 
June, 1924
German LVG Crash, 
June, 1924
Closeup LVG Crash, 
June, 1924
After the Crash, 
June, 1924
The Irvin Parachute 
June, 1924
Curtiss-Navy Racer, 1925 Navy Curtiss R-6
International Air Races
Dayton, October, 1924
Schedule of Events
International Air Races
Dayton, October, 1924
Retrospective, 1954
International Air Races
Dayton, October, 1924
First Place Winners
International Air Races
Dayton, October, 1924
Commercial Planes


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Gallery 7, First Diesel Flight,1927-1931
 

 
  In Detroit at Packard, Walter became involved in a very special Project. Captain Lionel M. Woolson, the Chief Aeronautical Engineer and Dipl.Ing., Hermann I.A. Dorner, a diesel engine inventor from Hanover, Germany, designed the Packard diesel with the help of Packard engineers and Dorner's assistant, Adolph Widmann. Walter worked with Woolson and Marvin Steele, the assistant engineer.
     The historic first flight of the Packard diesel engine took place on September 19, 1928, at the Packard proving grounds, Utica, Michigan. But the first unofficial test was made the night before. Walter was given the distinction of flying the world's first diesel powered airplane flight. 
 
Click on Thumbnails to Enlarge Picture & View Text
 

 
Crew of Big Naval Plane
Visiting Miami
April 1927
Giant Armored Bomber
Philadelphia
August 1927
Packard Diesel
Model DR---980 of 1928
Lionel Woolson &
Walter E. Lees
Packard Diesel Stinson
X7654, May, 1929
Alvan Macauley &
Col. Charles A. Lindbergh
Packard Diesel Stinson
X7654, May 1929
First Cross-country
Packard Diesel Stinson
X7654, May, 1929
Walter Lees & Bernarr Macfadden
June, 1929
Lindbergh Inspects Diesel
August, 1929
Will Rogers & Bernarr McFadden
National Air Races, Cleveland
August, 1929
Diesel Powered 
Waco Taperwing X4N
November, 1929
Packard Diesel Engine
November, 1929
Detroit to Miami Flight
Packard Diesel Stinson
X7654, March, 1930
Detroit to Miami for $8.50, March, 1930 Capt. Lionel Woolson
Designer of the Packard-Diesel
April, 1930
Packard-Diesel powered
Buhl Air Sedan
October, 1930
Buhl Aircraft Company, 1930
National Air Tour
November,1930
Nancy Hopkins
National Air Tour,1930
Bleriot 110
Endurance Record
March, 1931
Bernard 80 G.R.
Endurance Record
March, 1931
National Air Tour, Edsel Ford Trophy
July, 1931
National Air Tour
Happy Homecoming
July, 1931
Diesel Powered 
Waco Taperwing NC4N
August, 1931
Diesel Powered 
Verville, Air Coach
NC70W, 1939?


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Gallery 8, Endurance Flight, 1931
 

 
  Let's Get Ready 1931
The Packard Motor Company gave Walter Lees and Frederick A. Brossy permission to attempt to break the non-refueling record of 67 hours, 13 minutes, held by two Frenchmen, Maddelena and Creeorni.
     The 225 HP Packard Diesel engine that Captain L.M. Woolson and Dipl.Ing. Hermann I.A. Dorner had designed was placed in a specially built Bellanca. Woolson had advocated the endurance flight before his death and outlined many of the plans which were carried out in the actual flight.
     In spite of elaborate planning, the first attempt failed. 
 
55 Years Before Voyager 1931
The Packard Motor Company, a conservative, safety-first company, was understanding about the failure. They wired approval to try another attempt.
     In the second attempt, on April 12th, The Packard-Diesel Bellanca took off with a gross load of 6,666 pounds including 458 gallons of fuel oil weighing seven pounds per gallon. The total cost of the fuel was $45.80. The second attempt failed due to bad weather.On the third attempt, they successfully established a new endurance record of 84 hours, 32 minutes. Walter's dream to become a famous flyer had more than come true. He had broken a World's Record. 
 
Click on Thumbnail to Enlarge Picture & View Test
 

 
Packard Bellanca
"Pacemaker", 1931
Packard Bellanca
"Pacemaker", 1931
Packard Bellanca
"Pacemaker", 1931
The Collier Trophy, 1931
Diesel-Powered Bellanca on Jacksonville Beach Walter & Fred Checking the Fuel Walter & Group Checking the Fuel Fred Brossy Weighing The Fuel
Fuel Oil Carried on Flight Supplies Carried on the Flight Walter E. Lees & Edward Macauley Belly Tank for Bellanca, 1931
Waiting for Good Weather Packard Advertisement Immediately after Landing


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Gallery 9, Post Endurance Flight, 1931
 

 
  After the Endurance Flight, Walter and Fred were feted at many receptions. Their feat made front page news in many of the newspapers. The Packard Motor Company threw all of their resources into a publicity campaign which extolled the virtues of their new aircraft diesel engine. However, for various reasons, the diesel engine project was finally abandoned and Walter left Packard for greener pastures.
     After the flight, the plane was returned to Bellanca, refitted with a gasoline engine, and sold to Emperor Haile Selassie to be featured at his coronation. It crashed and burned on takeoff from Roosevelt field on its way to Abyssinia. 
 
Click on Thumbnails to Enlarge Picture & View Text
 

 
Five Gallon Can Lodged in Strut Lees & Brossy After the Flight Walter Lees And His Family Record Holding Pilots Bring Ship to Detroit
New Flight Record, June 8, 1931 "Official" Packard Photo Fred Brossy & Frank Schulte Walter & Fred, 1931
Bellanca 782W, 1931
Col. Hubert Julian
Col. Hubert Julian Bellanca 782W, 1931
Col. Hubert Julian


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Gallery 10, EARLY BIRDS OF AVIATION 1932 TO 1993
 

 
  These photos present incidents in Walter's career which I think are interesting and informative.Conspicuous among them are six photos related to the Early Birds of Aviation. Much of the text and many of the photos on my site are taken from the CHIRP, the journal of the Early Birds.
THE EARLY BIRDS
Membership shall be limited to those who piloted a glider or airplane, gas balloon or airship prior to December 17, 1916, upon evidence deemed sufficient by the Membership Committee and approved by the Board of Governors, except: Nationals of countries other than the United States engaged in World War I must have met the foregoing conditions prior to August 4,1914. 
 
THE FIRST EARLY BIRD MEETING

      So frequently we are asked: who attended the first EB meeting, where was it held, and when? You might also like to have this information, so here we are listing below the time, place, attendance, and officers on that first occasion.
      The meeting was held in Chicago on that famous date in history---December 17, 1928---*the 25th anniversary of the first Wright flight at Kittyhawk. On hand and elected to membership were:
 
  *Ernie Jones
*Capt. Horace Wild
L. A. Vilas
*Richard H. Depew, Jr.
*Ivan J. Gates
*Col. Chas. deF. Chandler
Capt. J. F. deVillard
*Anthony H. B. Fokker
Dr. H. W. Walden
Chas. Dickerson
Marjorie Stinson
P. G. B. Morris
 
 
Members elected to office were as follows:
*P. G. B. Morris, President
Gen. Benjamin Foulois, Vice President
*Anthony H. G. Fokker, Vice President
Jean F. DeVillard, Vice President
Lt. Col. Holden C. Richardson, Treasurer
*Ernest L. Jones, Secretary

Governors
*Richard H. Depew, Jr.            Dr. Henry W. Walden
Raffe Emerson            *Walter Brookins
*Earle Ovington

The asterisks indicate those who have passed away---a vivid example of how the ranks are thinning.
From The Early Birds CHIRP, JULY, 1956, Number 54 
 
Click on Thumbnail to Enlarge Picture & View Text
 

 
Early Birds Meeting
Detroit, 1932
EB's President
William E. Scripps, 1934
Early Birds Toast Curtiss in Detroit, 1935 Early Birds, at Cleveland
October, 1939
Early Birds at Fowlers in San Jose, 1939
Early Bird Meeting
Los Angeles, 1956
Early Bird Meeting
Rockton, IL, 1969
Early Bird's 57th Annual Reunion
Los Angeles, 1985
Early Bird Plaque
September, 1993
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Gallery 10-1, Miscellaneous, 1931 TO 1941
Captain Woolson's Plaque
Summer, 1931
Capt. Ben Reisweber, 1932 Gen. Billy Mitchell
Wheel Memento
1932
Walter Lees
Packard Hall of Precision
January, 1933
Ralph de Palma
Packard Hall of Precision
January, 1933
Air Veteran Hails 
Junior Birdmen, 1934
Correspondence
with WACO, 1934
Junior Birdmen of America
September, 1935
Scintilla Magneto Division, Bendix Corporation
1935
Caterpillar Club Members
Early Birds,
1935


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Gallery 11, War Years, 1940 TO 1946
 
 
  Walter was recalled to active duty on November 20, 1940. He served at various Naval stations including Corpus Christi, Texas, Alameda, California and the Phillipine Islands. He retired from the U.S. Naval Reserve on June 28, 1948.
     Included on the page are four photos of George Hicks, who married Walter's daughter Billie (Charlotte). They met and married while Walter was in Corpus Christi. George served in the South Pacific.
 

 
Click on Thumbnail to Enlarge Pictures & View Text

 
Walt Navy
Corpus Christi
January, 1941
Assembly & Repair Shop
Corpus Christi
March, 1941
John H. Towers
Corpus Christi
June, 1941
Flying Boat
Alameda
July, 1943
Sangley Point, Phillipine Islands
April, 1945
Walter, Navy, 1945 Damaged Plane, Philippine Islands,1945 Camp, Philippine Islands, 1945 Ships, Unidentified, 1945
NAS
Corpus Christi
March, 1946
Service in Phillipines, WW II, 1944-1945 Church of Immaculate Conception, Phillipines, 1945 Last Flight, 1944
Lt. Comdr. George Hicks
WW II, 1945
George's First Plane George Solos in Travel Air, 1932 George and his Crew
South Pacific, 1943


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Gallery 12, POST WAR, 1947-1957
 

 
  After Walter retired, he settled down on a small ranch in Turlock, California. To keep busy, he raised earthworms for the fishermen and agriculturists. Because of this, he became known as "Wormy Walt". Unfortunately, his hip continued to get worse, probably as a result of his parachute jump from the L.V.G. in 1924. He died in 1957 as a result of complications arising from his accident.
Included on this page are three photos which his good friend Walter Bullock had sent to him. Bullock built and flew two classic airplanes as late as 1966. 
 
Click Thumbnail to Enlarge Picture & View Text
 

 
Walter Lees
Local Rancher
March, 1949
Lees Commander of 
State Guard Unit
September, 1950
Ralph de Palma Visits
Walter Lees
June 1953
Friday the 13th
Remembered, 1956
Early Bird Reunion
Birmingham, 1962
Bullock Homebuilt Bullock Flying His Bleriot, 1966 Bullock Flying His 
Beachey "Little Looper", 1966


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From his collection of photos, news clippings and his journals 
 
Many from the book
"Pioneer Pilot" 
edited by his daughter 
Jo Lees Cooper
 
  Ralph & Jo Lees Cooper
 
Walter E. Lees  
  Walter E. Lees, Pioneer Pilot, soloed in 1912 and continued in aviation until 1945. He flew approximately 12,000 hours and handled over 60 different types of aircraft. In 1931, he set a non-refueling endurance record in a Packard-Diesel powered Bellanca which stood until 1986 

  We, The Early Birds of Aviation, Inc., in order to encourage, promote and foster international interest in aeronautics and astronautics, and to preserve the history of all pioneers in aerospace, and for the purpose of advancing and promulgating all forms of human related flight do ordain, establish and adopt this constitution.
From the preamble of the Constitution of The Early Birds of Aviation, Inc.

 
     In Walter's collection of memorabilia I found some 25 issues of the CHIRP, the official organ of the Early Birds. The issues extend from June, 1936 through July, 1995, with many missed copies in the sequence. In spite of this, I found much information, both photos and stories, which I used in the building of my Pioneer Pilot website. Now I am building a new website which features information on all of the original members of the Early Birds. In addition, I have entries for some 20 or more non-members, who were important in the early days. I hope this will prove to be a valuable online resource to the friends, relatives and other interested researchers of the group. To that end, I have already added a page for each of the 598 Original Early Birds of Aviation. So far I have been able to add biographies, some very brief, some extensive, for more than 450 of them. More will be added as time and materials permit. If you are interested in the subject, I invite you to click on the logo or titles and visit the site, still under construction. If you have any photos or stories which you would like to share or inquiries which I might help you to answer, feel free to contact me.
Thank you, Ralph Cooper
(7-6-2003)
 

Copyright © June 18, 1997, Ralph Cooper
Revised -- June 4, 2006

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