June 23, 2007

Victims shared passion for flight

HIDDENITE -- Benny Sharpe and Dr. Walter Long will be remembered as avid fliers, eager to spend their time piloting the sky.

Each owned a small plane. Both flew frequently. While Sharpe was a commercial pilot for 23 years, flying is something Long embraced only after retiring from his medical practice in 2001.

“Flying became his passion in retirement. It was a dream, all his life. He lived with one of the local airfields right in front of his house,” said Dr. Russell Faulkenberry, one of the doctors at Family Care Center, the private practice Long founded.

Sharpe, 70, began pilot training when he joined the U.S. Air Force in 1954. He began working for Piedmont Airlines in the 1970s. Sharpe continued working as a pilot for Piedmont Airlines when it was taken over by U.S. Airways, and he retired as a captain in the 1990s, said his brother, Lee.

“He’s flown continuously the last 45 or 50 years and had his own plane at the Statesville airport. Benny logged more than 25,000 hours as a pilot. When he was flying for an airline, he logged more than 1,000 hours a year,” Lee said. “He enjoyed golf and aviation. That’s what he devoted all of his time to.”

Benny and Lee also spent a number of evenings eating meals together. In recent years, they looked after their mother until her death.

“He was my big brother. We’ve remained close. Family means looking after each other,” Lee said. “We flew together on some occasions, and we got our kids together and talked together.”

Recently, Benny helped Long get his plane in flying condition, Lee said.

“Benny helped him put a new engine in his plane and paint it and helped him overhaul it. He also instructed him on some things,” he said. “Benny and Walter flew together for the last four or five years. Benny helped people hone their flying skills and stay current with their pilot’s license.”

Long, 75, still checked in at the Family Care Center a couple of times a week.

“He was retired, but he still came in every other day to check on us, and get his paper. He still came to our Christmas parties, and he knew just about everyone’s patient by name. He could hardly go anywhere without someone knowing him,” said Vonda Marlow, an administrator at Family Care Center.

One of the doctors in the practice said he learned of Long’s death when someone came to the practice and told the staff members.

“He did so much for the community. He would bend over backward for the patients,” said Dr. Mark DeVries, one of the doctors at Family Care Center. “He’s a very vibrant person, very sharp. I believe that this is part of God’s plan, but it’s still very hard.”

Faulkenberry interned with Long when he was in medical school. He said it was Long’s love of the medical field and his eagerness to share his teachings that made Faulkenberry return to Taylorsville.

“He loved to teach us. Patients always respected him, and he was very well liked. We depended on him for leadership, guidance and direction,” Faulkenberry said. “His patients truly were his friends. He’d go out of his way to help any of them at any time. He was the kind of physician you don’t see anymore. If you needed help, you could always call on him - he never refused. He’s going to be greatly missed by everybody in this community, especially his patients. I couldn’t have practiced with a better role model or mentor.”

According to Marlow, Long and Sharpe were planning to fly to a meeting in Statesville on Thursday. They took off, but never made it to the meeting, she said.

BY SARAH NEWELL, Record Staff Writer. Contact: snewell@hickoryrecord.com | 322-4510 x5408 or 304-6915
The full of this article's can be read on the source at: Hickory Daily Record

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