Unknown giants: Charles Taylor Award for those just doing their job

Unknown Giants Charles Taylor Award for those just doing their job By Don Dodge Master Mechanic Frank Bedard receives the 2001 Charles Taylor Award. It was a beautiful crisp February morning at the Charleston International Airport when...


Unknown Giants

Charles Taylor Award for those just doing their job
By Don Dodge

Frank Bedard Master Mechanic Frank Bedard receives the 2001 Charles Taylor Award.

It was a beautiful crisp February morning at the Charleston International Airport when the van full of inspectors from the Flight Standards Office pulled up to the old hangar. The parking lot was full, and people dressed in their best were filing through the hangar door. This was an awards banquet, the first for 2001 and the inspectors were there to present the Charles Taylor Award to Frank Bedard.

Frank is a mechanic and local legend who worked at the Charleston Airport for almost 50 years. As I entered the hangar, my thoughts went back to when I first began the process of qualifying Frank for the Charles Taylor Award.

When I first told Frank that he had been nominated for the award, Frank responded in a way that was typical of this quiet, unpretentious mechanic. Frank said "I don't understand this, I don't deserve anything, I just did my job."

I asked, how did you get your start in aviation? Frank looked out the window with care-warn eyes. I could see that his mind was crossing over the decades of his life. He smiled, then told me the amazing story of his Uncle Jack.

Jack Berry Major Jack Berry, second from left, received a plaque on his retirement as manager of the Cleveland Airport in 1933 depicting his achievements throughout his aviation career.

Uncle Jack was a burly ruddy-faced Irishman, who wore tweed suits with spats and drove up for Sunday dinner at his parent's house in a big Packard. To his family he was Uncle Jack, but to every one else he was Major Jack Berry. After dinner Uncle Jack would sit at the table smoking his briar pipe and tell of the adventures of his friends Charles Lindbergh, Jimmy Doolittle, Wiley Post, and Amelia Earhart. Frank grew up on those stories.

Frank casually mentioned that Uncle Jack supervised laying out the first airway from New York to San Francisco and built the Cleveland Airport. "Uncle Jack gave me my first job, polishing airplanes at the Cleveland Airport." I stared at Frank with a wide-eyed, open-mouthed expression that betrayed my astonishment. Frank said that if I was interested, he would go up in the attic and find some of his uncle's pictures and share them with me.

The pictures showed Major Berry with aviation giants like Lindbergh, Doolittle, and Amelia Earhart. There were also some newspaper clippings and other memorabilia. Frank said that his Uncle Jack's office walls were covered with pictures and awards like these. Frank said, "It broke my heart when I found out that all that aviation history was thrown out after Uncle Jack passed away."

Seeing the photographs and knowing Frank, I was inspired to research this further. Armed with copies of the photos and newspaper clippings that Frank lent me, I began to research local libraries, the Internet and the FAA aviation library at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center. After much research, I was astonished to find only one small paragraph, just a footnote that mentioned Major Berry. This footnote stated:

"Major Berry was the Cleveland Airport Manager in the early '20s. He was one of the first of his breed of airport managers and under his direction the Cleveland Airport was constructed as a 2,000-foot circular all-way airfield paved with cinders."

Discovering a treasure trove Jack Berry & Bob HopeMajor Jack Berry and Bob "Paleface" Hope.

With the aid of the incredibly helpful FAA librarian at the Mike Monroney library I continued the research. The librarian contacted the Cleveland Public Library and they produced 10 newspaper articles from their archives. These newspaper articles spanned from 1928 to 1955. This treasure trove of information also provided insight into Major Berry's personality. What follows is a brief history of an unknown giant.

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