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Volunteer Spotlight: Ann and Fred Criswell

Ann and Fred Criswell at EAA's Audrey Park campground.

There is a saying that the family that plays together, stays together. But in Ann and Fred Criswell's case, it's the family that volunteers together that stays together.

The Bettendorf, Iowa, couple has literally raised their four children while volunteering at EAA AirVenture. And now their children are doing the same thing.

Ann said the couple has done many jobs since their love affair with EAA began in the late 1950s. In fact, they've only missed two years of volunteering at AirVenture since the convention moved to Oshkosh. One or both have worked in Emergency Repair, Women's Activities, Operation Thirst, Pre-convention Thirst, Airplane Greeters, Flying Cinema, Friendship Tent and South Maintenance, to name a few. And when their kids were old enough, they were helping out wherever Mom and Dad were volunteering at the moment.

In those early years, one of their favorite jobs was putting out the "YELLOW X" on the intersection of the runways near Flight Line Operations, Ann said. "What a thrill having the show planes flying almost over top of us. I remember the first year the Concorde flew overhead; the ground literally shuddered under our feet."

Their youngest daughter, Mindy, started volunteering with her dad when she was about 8, painting rocks white for borders around the grounds. Another daughter, Martha, spent her teen years making sandwiches and lemonade when they started Operation Thirst in the early 1970s. "When her son Craig was born, she brought him into the Operation Thirst building in a carrier and he would sleep under the table while his mom was making sandwiches on top," Ann said.

Before the convention, sons Mark and Matt would help their dad and do whatever jobs needed to be done, such as digging holes, painting or putting up fences.

AirVenture helped to grow a love of aviation in their children. Matt is now a pilot for Mesa Airlines, and Mark had earned many ratings before he was killed in an airplane crash nine years ago, Ann said.

But come July, you'll likely find Matt, his wife, Stacey, and their children Haley and Luke, as well as Mindy and her children - Abby, Morgan and Alison - helping with Pre-convention Thirst. And Mindy's husband, Dan, pitches in at South Maintenance to ready the grounds. Fred is also at South Maintenance, and is known as the "Go-Fer." "He goes to get paint, fencing, rope by the mile, batteries or whatever else is needed," Ann said.

Although they have done many jobs at AirVenture, Ann said the family has no favorite. "We love every bit of it knowing that we're part of its success. We find so much joy in the friendships we have made and look forward to what we call our family reunion each year…"


FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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