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Monday, September 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho Voices

Rising above it all

Centenarian gets lofty birthday gift

Lydia Holland, 101 years old, prepares for a belated birthday gift at Northern Sky Air Center in Hayden on Tuesday. Her birthday was in August and her request was to be taken on a flight around Lake Coeur d’Alene. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Lydia Holland, 101 years old, prepares for a belated birthday gift at Northern Sky Air Center in Hayden on Tuesday. Her birthday was in August and her request was to be taken on a flight around Lake Coeur d’Alene. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Carl Gidlund smokejumper@roadrunner.com

Lydia Holland has experienced a lot of things in her 101 years, but never had she seen her family’s old 300-acre farm at Stateline from the air.

That changed this week when the SOARING organization took Holland, a hospice patient and Guardian Angel Nursing Homes resident, on her first flight in a small plane.

“It was just wonderful,” she said, after her hour-long aerial tour of the old family farm plus Post Falls, Lake Coeur d’Alene, the city and Silverwood Theme Park.

Her only previous flight was in 1979, on a commercial airline trip from Spokane to San Diego.

This recent trip came about when Holland told Deneen Davis, her social worker with Hospice of North Idaho, that she’d like a flight tour for her 101st birthday present in August.

“Hospice works in large part by connections,” explained lead social worker Mary Lenox. “We had a patient, Lucy Sawejko, who died last spring. One of her last wishes was to take an airplane ride. Her son, Dave Monroe, is a pilot, but his plane was under construction.

“Lucy died before she could go up, but Dave had a friend, Jay Burdeaux, who is affiliated with SOARING, which provides such flights to local youths. We contacted Dave about Lydia’s desire. Dave talked to Jay, and Jay asked Joe if he could take Lydia for a flight.”

SOARING’s president, Joe McCarron, agreed to the request, and on Tuesday Holland took off from Coeur d’Alene’s airport in a Cessna 180 with Burdeaux at the controls.

“The changes in this part of North Idaho were incredible,” Holland said after her plane ride. “I’ve lived here since I married George in 1929, and it’s so hard to believe that this is the same country we farmed for so many years. There’s been so much building.”

Holland, who has been a widow since 1984, attributes her longevity to “hard work. When we were on the farm I hitched horses for plowing, bucked hay bales and drove a truck. Other than that, I don’t know why I’ve lived this long.”

Afterward, Burdeaux said, “She’s such a remarkable person. I intend to visit her at Guardian Angel and quiz her about everything she’s seen, including her life on the farm, the Depression and the war. We have a lot to learn from people like Lydia.”

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