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Veteran Finds His Passion Still Soars

  • Jul 13, 2015
  • Meaghan Puglisi
  • 3-min Read

Mel and friend_best picture WISH_yes approvalMel Michiels is an Air Force veteran. While in the Air Force, Mel worked in North Africa preparing bombers.  He was an airplane mechanic, flight instructor, pilot, painted planes and he did sheet metal work. His spark? He is very proud of the fact that he painted a plane for a famous racer named Steve Wittman.  That plane is now hanging in the Smithsonian. Mel was also honored as a Master Mechanic by the FAA and given the Charles Taylor Award after 50 years of service.

A tenant in The Pines at Oak Meadows, Mel is also a Lifespark client. As with flying an aircraft, avoiding a crisis means putting plans in place to keep you on the right path with an alert and watchful eye to navigate you through the entire experience.

Mel remembers the thrill and spark of flying airplanes, especially that moment when you accelerate and soar and the satisfaction of a successful landing. When Mel was about to turn 90 this past August, his Life Care Manager, Naomi who is also a nurse, wanted to help Mel relive his spark with planes and flying. The mission? Bring Mel and a friend to the Commemorative Air Force Museum in St Paul, a place where Mel used to work 2-3 days a week repairing the planes.

“Because of a few minor health issues, Mel was worried he wouldn’t be able to leave Oak Meadows and when we approached him with the plan and offered him the reassurance and support that this was all possible, he was ecstatic,” said Naomi. “He knew just whom he would invite.”

A fellow veteran in the United States Navy, Mel’s closest friend and neighbor for over 20 years, Matt Sprangers, was ready and excited as well for the opportunity to see the old bombers. “They are neighbors even today at Oak Meadows,” continued Fluck. “Mel knew this would be just the activity to lift his dear friend’s spirit after the loss of his wife.”

Mel and Matt beamed as they looked at the aircrafts in each hanger, placing their hands along the North American B-25J Mitchell, “Miss Mitchell” and P-51C Mustang. They talked about the days of war and Mel shared stories about the planes he worked on as they visited each aircraft they fondly remembered: Harvard MK IV, Vultee BT-13 Valiant, Ryan PT-22 Recruit, Stinson L-5A Sentinel and the North American L-17 Navion. “These planes were so familiar to them, it was if it were yesterday,” said Naomi. “The Lifespark Experience really is much more than just nursing – sparking lives is so important and its benefits are far greater than traditional home care.”

The excitement and spark in their eyes were felt by all that day as the two friends toured the rest of the museum. They were shining, they were soaring, and they were grateful for the opportunity to feel the spark once again.

Soar On, Mel! (and Matt!)

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