Ronald Strahm and J.C. Waters were longtime friends from Independence who took to the air when Waters was making a visit home.
On Tuesday they died together when Strahm’s plane crashed in Clinton County, Mo.
Waters was a retired math and computer science teacher at Truman High School who had moved to Portsmouth, Va., to run a charter sailing business with a boat he built himself in Independence. While he was visiting family here, he and Strahm took at least two recreational flights over the Missouri River and the area’s farmlands.
Both families confirmed they were the two men killed in Tuesday’s crash.
Strahm had had previous close calls. In February 2009, his small plane lost power shortly after takeoff from an airport in Grain Valley.
He tried to restart the engine, but it wouldn’t fire. He landed a mile from the runway and crashed into a tree.
Seven years earlier, his engine started surging after liftoff from the airport in Lee’s Summit. The plane skidded off the end of the pavement and into a ditch.
Neither incident was deemed pilot error.
On Tuesday, the 68-year-old Independence man finally ran out of good fortune.
Authorities say the men’s plane was flying low over the home of friends when “something went horribly wrong.”
While the friends stood outside their house and watched, the plane, a 1967 Piper Cherokee single-engine propeller craft, crashed upside down in a nearby pasture. One wing tore off. The cabin of the plane burned.
“Ron was deeply loved by his wife, and a devoted father and grandfather to his blended family of six children, 13 grandchildren and two great grandchildren,” Strahm’s family said in a statement. “Ron will always be remembered as a dedicated Christian man and peace maker to all.”
Richard White, a friend and airplane mechanic, said Strahm “was a great individual and great pilot who demonstrated good skills. He was just a good guy. An honest, hard-working man. When he said he was going to do something, he did it.”
Strahm and his wife, Cindy, also ran the Misty River Equestrian Center in Independence.
Waters’ nephew Tom Waters of Independence said his uncle was an excellent craftsman who personally built a 60-plus foot, two-masted schooner that he dubbed The Spirit of Independence during a 12-year labor of love. A few years ago he and a small crew sailed down the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and up the coast to Portsmouth.
Waters’ wife, Marsha, also a retired teacher, remained in Virginia while her husband and daughter, Joy Waters, returned to Independence for a two-week visit.
Waters also has a son, Jared Waters, and a daughter, Janet Tracy, in this area.
Tom Waters said his uncle’s sailboat told a story of perseverance: “Here was a guy who set a goal and set about achieving it. The man did love life fully.”