As a Naval Aviator, Charles Tuholski, 82, developed a passion for airplanes. During his service in the Navy, he enjoyed flying a variety of planes. After his discharge, Charles dreamed of owning a Cessna 172 and giving pilot lessons to students. Unfortunately, that dream never came to fruition but Charles’ love for flight lived on. He had not flown an airplane for several years and wished he could re-experience the thrill of flight.
Charles served in the Navy from 1953 through 1958 and was discharged as a Lieutenant Commander. He worked onboard an aircraft carrier in the Pacific Ocean throughout most of his Naval career. After retiring from the Navy, Charles spent 25 years working as an air traffic controller at the Stapleton Airport. Today, Charles enjoys playing a flying game in the Wii where he can pilot a WWII aircraft. Although Charles needs guidance on the Wii due to his vision, he loves pretending to fly the plane.
When Charles isn’t busy setting the top score on Wii, he also loves to help around his community. The staff and fellow residents at Clear Creek Care Center particularly appreciate his green thumb. “Chuck is our gardener,” Shana Perera, Activity Director at Clear Creek Care Center, says, “it is a job he loves to do and takes great pride in it. Visitors, residents, and their families all enjoy his beautiful butterfly garden.”
Charles realized his longtime Wish to take flight once more on May 2. Charles and his son-in-law, Doug, flew in a Cessna 172, the same plane model Charles had wished to own years ago. Perera noted that Charles, “wasn’t feeling well, but when he caught sight of that plane, he just beamed and beamed. It was life changing for him.” He was even able to co-pilot the plane, spending about an hour in the air over Denver. After 15 years, piloting for Charles was second nature. “It was amazing to watch him come alive, remembering how to maneuver the plane, what buttons to push, along with all of the lingo,” Photographer Erin Witt said.
“I just love to fly,” Charles said, “I’m never going to stop that.”
Photography by Erin Witt