July 3 is the day before a national holiday for millions of people across the United States.
That date has a deeper meaning for one Quincy family.
Fifteen years ago, Quincy pilot Don Schaller disappeared after taking off from a Traverse City, Michigan airport.
He and another pilot were in a Czech L-39 Albatros plane preparing for an air show.
The Michigan State Police think the jet went down somewhere in the northern part of Lake Michigan.
"I got a phone call from Don's partner," Schaller's wife, Christine said. "I thought, 'is this real?' He said the plane had gone out and had not come back and they were searching and he'd get back with me. Then things run through your mind. Did I tell him I loved him this morning when he left?"
Christine Schaller did get to tell her husband she loved him on what would be the last morning she would ever see him again. He left their Quincy home on July 3, 1998, which happened to be the day of their 29th wedding anniversary.
"Kissed him goodbye, and I said, 'fly pretty!,' she said. "He took off, and then I got a call around 6:30."
Schaller had left for Traverse City for an airshow for its
National Cherry Festival
. It would be his first and last trip to that annual celebration.
Christine Schaller said the Michigan State Police think the plane went down in what's called
The Great Lakes Triangle
. Jay Gourley wrote a book called
The Great Lakes Triangle
in 1977. It claimed the Great Lakes Triangle had more unexplained disappearances per unit area than the Bermuda Triangle.
Christine received a letter of record from the State of Illinois, Michigan and Adams County that declared her husband deceased even though a body was never recovered. She was able to experience some closure at two memorials held after Schaller's disappearance.
Here is some of the documentation (PDF files):
- Michigan Department of State Police Report
- NTAP Data, TRACR Depiction, Registration & Airworthiness Certificate
- Operating Limitations and Airshow Schedule
- Pilot Operator Aircraft Accident Report
- Supplement E
- Witness Statements
Is that the way you think he would've wanted to go if he could choose?
"Oh yes. The businesses he had, two of them were into flying. The other business was to help provide the funds," Christine said.
Christine Schaller has tried to pass along that appreciation of flying to her grandkids.
"We always cheer when a plane goes by," she said. "We have happy thoughts. Sure, we'd like him to be here, but he was flying and that's what he loved to do, so we're happy."
Schaller was 48 when he disappeared.
Christine has kept a scrapbook of all the press clippings and documentation of her husband's disappearance.