Facebook pixel
Pilot Frank sits inside aircraft with determined look on his face

Frank Shares His Story to Help Others’ Dreams Take Flight

If you have a dream, never give it up! You might make history someday.

That’s what Frank would tell you because his life is truly a testament to this statement. And he is always eager to share his story in the hopes that it will help someone else accomplish their dreams.

Things didn’t come easy for Frank. As a child in Colorado Springs, Colorado, he was bullied and teased for the trouble he had in school. As a result, Frank struggled to learn to read and write at the same pace as his classmates. Words on paper just didn’t make sense—it was like they were simply illegible to him.

When he struggled in school, Frank would fantasize about what his life could be like when he grew up. His thoughts often drifted to flying, and Frank decided that he would become a pilot. He was patient and pushed through the hard times, and at the first chance he had, Frank joined the Civil Air Patrol and JROTC. This type of hands-on learning felt right to him, and for the first time, he excelled in a school subject.

Frank’s passion for aviation quickly grew—as did his tenacity and perseverance.

When he was 17, Frank marched right up to the local Tuskegee Airmen recruitment office and signed up. Well, he attempted to… but was quickly sent home for being underage.

Two years later, Frank passed all his tests and enlisted in the Tuskegee. He was finally going to be a pilot!

He started his training with a two-year certification in Biloxi, Mississippi. But, Frank’s aviation knowledge was already so advanced that he graduated 18 months before the rest of his class. He transitioned to the aeronautic mechanic field, and everything felt like it just clicked. He could find his way around an airplane and an assembly manual much easier than the textbooks he struggled with in his childhood.

When Frank was 40 years old, the reason for that finally became clear: He was diagnosed with dyslexia. Dyslexia is a learning disorder that affects the areas of the brain that process language, making it challenging to read.

Giving a name to something that had bothered him his whole life was incredibly empowering for Frank.

One day, Frank and his friends were having lunch and sharing stories. “You should write a book,” a friend said. “I have dyslexia,” Frank replied. “How do you want me to write a book?”

That’s when Frank’s determination kicked in: he had a new goal to accomplish. With the help of his close friend Liz, Frank audio-recorded his stories and then transferred them onto the page, sentence by sentence.

After three years of hard work, Frank published his book: I Wanted to Be a Pilot: The Making of a Tuskegee Airman. Then, remembering how important learning a skilled trade was to his own life, Frank used the book sales to create a trade school scholarship fund for high school students.

Frank often spoke with young people at book signings who told him they faced similar challenges like he did. These moments meant the world to him, and connecting with students became a new passion for Frank.

At age 97, Frank’s wish was to continue sharing his story with others, especially with young people who might also be struggling socially or academically in school as he did. Wish of a Lifetime was honored to connect Frank with the students of Denver Academy for a special presentation and question and answer session about his experience living with dyslexia.

Frank felt a newfound sense of accomplishment through this experience that he had not felt for years—and a great sense of closure and satisfaction along with it. He hoped the students would understand that what once felt scary or embarrassing could someday become a part of their own success stories—just like the story Frank is proud to share today.

Frank wants his legacy to be “never giving up and always trying your best, no matter what.” And his story will continue to empower young people to let their dreams take flight—just like he did.

Want to see more stories like Frank’s?

Sign up for our email list and continue to be inspired by the stories of older adults fulfilling their dreams.

Wish of a Lifetime from AARP is changing how we age, one inspirational wish at a time.

Submit a life-changing wish in your community, and share your favorite wish story on Facebook and Instagram to inspire your network!