Date: March 2, 1963
Location: Centralia, WA
Newspaper: The Daily Chronicle
Nuns of the Medical Missionaries of Mary in Kenya, Africa, may soon fly their own small airplane to isolated tropical East Africa areas, near the Equator. Two Seattle air line pilots, the gifts of many people and several business firms, two United States senators — even the U S Navy and Air Force -are part of what backers here called “Operation Handclasp.”
That start goes back to when young Jerry Fay, flying on a Navy contract in World War II, met missionaries of many faiths in Africa. The memory stayed with him, “I saw they had a rough go of it,” he recalled. Fay is now 42, married, and the father of five children. He is a flight captain with Pacific, whom he has worked since 1951. His close companion is Everett (Bud) Donovan, 28, a bachelor and pilot with the airline six years.
Nearly 20 years after Fay’s African flying, the two left here in February for Naples, Italy, and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. An audience was arranged for the two with Pope John XXIII at Rome. Ahead then was flying to Addis Ababa, to pick up and assemble a small plane which the Navy agreed to move to Naples and the Air Force to carry crated to Africa. Then there was to be flying the plane to Kitale, Kenya. Also -flying lessons for a few nuns, and landing strips to be lined up in the Turkana area, where the missionary order works in an area bordering Uganda and the Sudan. The nearest spare plane parts are at Nairobi, about 180 miles from Kitale.
Fay told about “Handclasp,” before leaving here. “Last fall,” he said, “I met Sister Jude. She was on her way back to her native Ireland from missionary work in Nigeria. Her brother, the Rev. John Walsh, is pastor of our church, St. Monica’s, on Mercer Island. Sister Judge told of the dire need for an airplane for medical work in Kenya.”
The problem seemed simple. I thought to myself: ‘Just buy the sisters an expensive, little airplane.’
“We had a meeting at my house. About 20 people.” But some “embarrassing questions” came up. Fay could not answer all of them. There was the raising of money to buy the plane, how to get it to Kenya, who would teach the nuns to fly. A committee was set up.
“The money started coming in,” Fay continued. “People of all faiths, even from Montana and Louisiana, sent contributions, from $3 to $1,000. Bud Donovan was my copilot on a trip to Portland. I mentioned the nuns’ need for a plane. Ever since, he’s been 90 percent of the production line.”
B. J. Oswald, an aircraft dealer in nearby Tacoma, “gave us a good deal on the plane … and tossed $100 into the kitty.” Every penny of the $10,000 raised was used. “It cost $425 just to have the plane crated and shipped from the factory to Norfolk, Va.”
Washington’s U. S. Sens. Warren G. Magnuson and Henry M. Jackson got the project to qualify under the foreign aid program. It meant Navy and Air Force help. Fay and Donovan got leaves of absence from their work. So “Operation Handclasp” moved along. Fay said they expected to be joined in Kenya by Sister Mary Therese of Boston. She gave up flying several years ago to join the Medical Missionaries of Mary. She has been assigned to Kenya.
“We want first to help the missionaries,” Fay said. “But anything we can do to make friends of Africans, rather than have them on the other side, seems like a good investment.”