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Rho Lambda & Oklahoma Dekes Newsletter

October 2023

2023 Reunion

It’s only a few weeks until the 2023 Reunion/Saturday Morning Tailgate on October 20-21! Contact Brother Fred Streb to arrange lodging and Brother Burns for details, and to let him know you’re coming. Go here for their Deke contact info.

WHO GETS THE 2023 GOAL POST AWARD?

Don’t miss the big reveal on Friday night at the Reunion. Rho Lambda’s most prestigious award goes to…!

The password we emailed to you opens any file. If you don’t have it, contact us. 

FROM THE DKE RL Board:

Fall has arrived (somewhere), but not in Texas! Football is in full swing, and we are 5-0 with Texas on deck. I urge the Brotherhood to attend our events on Friday, October 20, and the game-day Tailgate party at 700 Elm on Saturday. Time TBA, depending on the TV schedule.

We are progressing towards our goal of $25K by 2025 for the Randy Morrison Scholarship Fund. The board agenda has been jam-packed this year, planning for Rho Lambda’s return to campus in 2025. DKE is experiencing a revival as new chapters grow nationwide. OU’s IFC and administration have a very positive view of fraternities and specifically, Rho Lambda’s return.

Kerothen, Bob

ΡΛ Brother of the Month – DON BURAND

“I grew up on a ten-acre farm/ranch,” said Don, “twenty-six miles east of downtown Oklahoma City. Coming from a farm to sitting as a pledge at a House Mother’s table was a huge but beneficial change for me. That’s me in a red OU hat as a sophomore. I have fond memories of the DKE house. Steve Hutchins was my Big Brother, as I was for Dave Stern.

Dave Cooper (far right) came up with the idea for our Greek Week’s ‘University Sing.’ We all started singing as a strait-laced choir, then broke into a wild rock song, dancing a crazy boogaloo. The audience went nuts, and we won. My mom said, ‘It was the best day of my life!’ so we must have been good. We sent Cooper up to get the award.

“My goal was to be married before my graduation in ‘72, and I was, but it didn’t last. I served on active duty in the Air Force, including flying RC-135s on dark missions off the coast of Hanoi. In ’75, flying over Cambodia when the NVA overran Thon Son Knut airbase in Saigon, the exploding ammo dumps looked like lightning to us in the cockpit. It must have rained airplane parts for days. I lost three dear friends there.

“Active duty didn’t turn out to be my cup of tea, so I resigned from my regular commission in ’80 and became a Reserve Officer, which I loved. I served on Standby reserve for a little over three years while sorting out my civilian employment, which was initially with American Airlines Training Corp. as a Cessna Citation jet instructor and eventually as a simulator instructor for the KC-10 aircraft.

“I married Jen Lewis, and when, after some tests, her doctor told us she couldn’t get pregnant, we tried to adopt. Then, when I was home on TDY, she complained to the doctor about having strange symptoms. I told her she had to be pregnant, and the nurse admitted they hadn’t done a pregnancy test. Happy news: we soon had a son, whom we named ‘DJ’ for Don and Jen.

“I joined the Ready Reserve in ‘84 and was stationed at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, until August of ‘85, at which point we moved to March ARB, California.“

In August of ’91, I left my KC-10 simulator job and joined Alaska Airlines, flying out of SoCal until June of ’98. Then I retired from 25 years of military service, Active and Reserve, and took a Captain upgrade to go to Anchorage, AK.

“We loved Alaska. DJ thrived here, playing sports and getting involved with the Civil Air Patrol, which is very active in Alaska. We owned a safe Prius with lots of airbags, so when DJ went to college, we bought him one just like it and drove it and him down the AlCan Highway to college.

“This photo (left) of my last flight with Alaska Airlines, shows how bittersweet it was to retire at 62 in 2013. In the cockpit, DJ, his fiancé, Allie, and my copilot Audrey Cole, whom I’d sponsored as a new pilot, rode with me that last day.

On Don’s vest that last day are 40 years of decorations and pins. I see two Vietnam Service medals we share. And a Deke pin.

“In 2011, after a long illness, Jen passed away from organ failure. I’m convinced God helped me be there for her at the end. I’d gotten home from a flight, and she asked me to fix her a drink. I went to do that and had a freak fall, breaking my collarbone. While recuperating at home, I was blessed to be with Jen as she drew her last breath.

“By 2013, I’d met Roseanne from Encino, CA, and DJ was getting married in California. I still had his car, so I sold it online to a lady in CA, agreeing with her I’d reduce the price by $1,000 if she’d let me deliver it in my own sweet time. Roseanne and I took a meandering trip driving that Prius down the AlCan Highway, me growing a beard after retiring from a full career of never being able to.

“Roseanne and I celebrated in Herb Alpert’s ‘Vibrato Jazz Lounge” in L.A, then celebrated DJ’s marriage to Allie. DJ thanked me for shaving my beard.

“In 2015, in a flight suit that still fit, I attended the 30-year reunion of the Gucci Boys at ‘Sally’s Alley,’ a pilot’s bar on March ARB with Jimmy Doolittle’s signature on the door. Sally Alley had been a close friend of Jen’s, and Sally’s name became the bar’s name.

“When the KC-10s first arrived at March in the mid-80s, with a cadre from SAC, they had plenty of funding for the program, but no AF purchase codes to buy anything. The Chief Master Sergeant took some cash to the local Gucci store and bought briefcases, suitcases, and everything the crews needed on the road. Our call sign after that was ‘Gucci 51.’

“I’m fascinated with Doolittle’s Raid and his B-25s that bombed Tokyo early in WWII. I found this print of his plane over Tokyo Bay, signed by the sixteen pilots, and was able to get Jimmy’s original signature on it in 1985.

“In 2014, I finally met 97-year-old Rich Cole, Doolittle’s copilot, and he signed the print under Doolittle’s signature. His daughter, Carol, asked me what I planned to do with it, and I said it might be the only print with both their original signatures and that someday I’d probably try to donate it to the Smithsonian.

“She told me about The National Museum of the Pacific in Fredericksburg, Texas (Admiral Nimitz’s hometown), and its gallery dedicated to the B-25. Carol asked me to donate the print to them, and I agreed.

“After a long courtship, Roseanne and I married in 2015, and we share four marvelous grandkids, two from her previous marriage and two from mine. This is Oliver, DJ’s first, who’ll soon be five. His sister Rosie is almost three. Roseanne’s grandson Owen is three, and his brother Grant is fifteen months. We’re loving grandparents to them all.

“I mostly fly only gliders now, and as the Director of Glider Operations for the Alaska Wing CAP, I get such a kick from introducing young people to the skies in our Glider Academy.

“DJ got his start that way, soloing in a glider when he was 14. He got his Private Pilot Rating at 18 and was a bush pilot after college. From there, he worked his way up into commercial aircraft with Alaska Airlines and now flies for American Airlines.

“Recently, DJ and I were flying in a glider, and considering the untold years we’ve each spent flying them, I was amazed to realize what was happening. I said, ‘DJ, you and I are flying together in a glider for the very first time!’ What a wonderful father/son moment that was.

“Want to hear my story about Cessna 185 float planes? I got the flying bug over the Lake of the Ozarks at the age of eight in one of those. Since that day, I’ve not even sat in the cockpit of another float plane. They are everywhere in Alaska, and I’ve told that story countless times, often to another pilot who owned a float plane. That remark would often be followed with “We’ll fix that!’ but it never happened.

“Eventually, I was invited to fly along with another CAP pilot to reposition a float plane. The pilot described for me the method of flying floating airplanes, first pumping out the floats to extract any water and always loudly saying ‘Stepping Off’ when one does. There are ‘rights-of-way’ for taxiing among other float planes, then the pre-takeoff ‘making waves’ to reduce the surface tension of any smooth water. Soon, we were in the air, and the exhilaration was as if I was eight years old again.

“The flight was grand; the pilot was in perfect command of the plane, explaining how to fly it as he performed each task. Landing the float plane in the busy airspace of Lake Hood was tricky, but the pilot did it well. After landing, he had me step onto the right float, under power, and retrieve the mooring line as he cut the engine, and we floated to the dock. When he said, ‘Jump now,’ I did, and we soon had the plane tied into the slip, nose out, for the next crew.

“The pilot had developed an interest in flying at the age of six and spent hours playing, ‘Flight Simulator.” He became a pilot for Alaska Airlines in 2018 and is based in Anchorage. The float plane we flew together that day was a Cessna 185, and the pilot was my son.” 

Ron Sorter

 

Leave a comment if you wish, or contact us. Keep an eye out for October’s newsletter!

If you’d like information about making a tax-deductible donation to Randy’s Scholarship fund, here are some FAQs to help you.

Please get in touch with Rich Burns if you know of any Brothers who’ve passed away or aren’t receiving our Newsletter.

RIP, Randy

Kerothen, The ΡΛ Commo Crew