Pilot entombed in tiny plane’s cockpit



By Chuck Woodbury
plane767In the back room of The Glass Forge in downtown Grants Pass, Ore., on a table toward the back, sits a tiny model airplane glass-blown by business co-owner Lee Wassink. It isn’t meant to fly. It’s meant to look like a miniature Piper Cherokee, a single engine airplane popular with private pilots around the world.

I picked up the plane to look closely because it was so different from the other blown-glass objects created at the Forge — vases, ornaments, lamp shades, goblets, even little pumpkins for the just-finished Halloween season.

pumpkins767“The pilot’s right in there,” Lee said to me, pointing at the plane. To which I responded, “He is?” I wondered what the heck he was talking about. I examined the plane closely for a figurine at the controls, but there was nothing there — just some murky-looking glass where the cockpit would be.

“No, he’s in there,” Lee said. “His ashes.”

He explained to me that a recently widowed woman asked him if he could create a half-dozen tiny airplanes with a clear stand beneath each where the ashes of her late-husband, who flew a Piper Cherokee, could be entombed. Lee said, yes, he could do that.

Nathan Sheafor works on a large glass vase.

Lee suggested instead that he put the ashes right inside the cockpit itself rather than in the stand. The woman thought that was a great idea. Later, when she returned to pick up the planes, she took five but left one behind, the one I was holding. Lee thinks maybe it was because the paint job wasn’t right. 

If you are in Grants Pass, stop by the Glass Forge at 501 SW G Street, where you can watch Lee and his business partner Nathan Sheafor and their crew create beautiful blown-glass objects. They welcome guests and enthusiastically answer questions. If you come on a cold day, the 2,300-degree ovens will keep you toasty warm. Learn more at the company’s website, where you can watch a live webcam to see what’s happening right at the moment.

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