Our friend Les Taff died tragically on April 1, 2006. She fell from a tree and suffered severe head trauma.

Les was passing through Lookout Mountain back in the fall on her continuing odyssey to wherever, and got stuck here for awhile. I write this as her long time friend so that everyone will have some idea of how she spent the last few months of her life.

Les was living in her usual disarray in the Lookout LZ when I asked her to house sit for me. Who better to care for my animals and look after my plants? Anyway, she was excited to do so as she was working on a CD of her guitar music and kept getting side tracked in the LZ. Les and her menagerie moved up to my house on the Lookout Mtn bluff for a couple of weeks. She later moved her RV to my neighbors beautiful wooded lot and hung out working on the CD at my house, chopping wood (one of her favorite past times), hiking with heavy packs in preparation for her upcoming Applachian Trail hike, climbing at Rocktown, learning how to cook, playing with Wolfie, her beloved huskie pup and just having fun! She borrowed a glider one day and had her first hang glider flight in awhile which she ended with a perfect stand up landing! The grin on her face was beautiful.

Full moon was coming up, I think it was Jan as it was very COLD. Les had been hiking and met a guy who was having a drumming circle on the full moon night and invited her to come. She asked me to go and never having attended such an event I said yes. A neighbor stopped by the drumming circle who had a guitar and I could see Les was dying to play it. She finally got her hands on the guitar and held everyone spellbound while she played. They all thought she was a famous musician in disguise, she blew them away with her talent.

She had a friend by the name of Steve Lunn who she hiked with a lot, they were planning to do the AT together next year. He was her music partner, they would visit music stores lusting over guitars they couldn't own. Steve and I were her two closest friends here.

Les finished the CD she started at my house. There is even a song called "Judy's Living Room" on it. Steve had it re-mastered and another friend is working on a label for it. It will eventually be offered for sale with all of the proceeds going to a foundation for abused children. As I know more and her father gets the foundation set up, I will post it here or possibly make an announcement on the OZ Report.

Even though Les and I had been friends for a long time, I didn't really know her until we shared the last three months as neighbors and buddies. She became the sister that neither one of us ever had. Les was an amazing person and one whom I will never forget. If I learned anything from her and her sudden death, it would be to cast aside hate and anger for they have no redeeming value and to learn forgiveness.

Her usual greeting still sounds in my mind at the oddest times.........Hey youuu...

Judy Hildebrand
5/30/06
(judyfood at mindspring dot com)

 


 

We lost Les Taff a few weeks ago and I've had a very hard time coming to terms with it. I've known Les for ten years now and since then we had a lot of time together. That she was unlike anyone I've met will not be a surprise to her many friends and fans around the country.

Les had great talent in many areas. She could: Tow hang gliders, rebuild two stroke engines, drive an 18 wheeler, write computer code, design parts on CAD, work with very complicated graphics, teach people to fly, write music, and she played the twelve string guitar beautifully.

She was interested in yoga, hiking, kayaking, sailing, teaching children, animal rights, nutrition and frankly much more than I can name here. She enjoyed poking well-meaning reflective fun at everyone and not leaving herself out of the fun, referring to herself as weight-les, clue-les, etc…

Les was by any account a fiercely independent person, yet needed constant confirmation and encouragement to keep going. She was quite difficult to work with would take on more and more until her near collapse. Often we would do battle over things and she was a formidable opponent indeed. She bossed everyone around including me if I let her!

I gently edged her out of our nest last Fall. She moved down to the Chattanooga area to "work on some personal stuff" and was surrounded by a supportive community there who loved her dearly as we all did. She recorded a CD of her music, hiked with friends and was doing well we thought. I spoke with her twice in the weeks before she died.

Her final story sounds, in my opinion, like a wounded wildcat cornered by well meaning but ultimately completely out of touch people "trying to help her". It's that fierce independence thing again… Maybe what we all witnessed was that — like a human super nova — she had shined so brightly for so long there simply was little of her energy left and she burned out completely.

I don't think I like this planet nearly as much without her.

Tom Peghiny
April, 2006



 

A memorial service and celebration of Les's amazing life was held at Lookout Mtn. Flight Park on June 17. Neal Harris and Judy Hildebrand released Les's ashes over the mountain from her trusty Flightstar.

 


 

Photos of Les in Kansas and Florida, 2002-2004

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

HG Instructional Articles by Les Taff

Aerotowing Procedures

Discussion of Harmonious Towing

The Continuing Landing Debate:
Transition from Prone to Upright, When and How

 


 

Having had the pleasure to be one of Les's students and the opportunity to spend a very brief week and a half of time with her, I too was deeply saddened to hear of her passing.

The things I will always remember about Les was her pursuit of excellence in flight and her love for her dogs. Les taught me that close enough was NOT on option for her. Flying was to be done perfectly. Every flight I have taken I hear her words echoing in my head; Keep your turns coordinated! Watch your airspeed! It's not a question of IF the engine will stop, but when! How high are you and where are you going to land when the engine stops? She loved her two dogs which were her constant companions. She mothered them as if they were her own kids.

I can say her passion has made me a better pilot, both GA and tug, and knowing her has made me a better person.

Dave Ries
Topeka, KS

 


 

I lost a sister on so many levels.

There has never been anybody who could ever come close to being Les. For one, I never felt anyone more in love with flying. I never met anyone who was such a living contradiction -- I was always in awe of her. She inspired me to fly better, made me laugh constantly, had me shaking my head even more so, but she was an easy one to love. I loved it when she came to LMFP to stay since it meant we would be neighbors living and laughing at The Landing RV Park -- and always dragging her newest flying creation behind her small motorhome. She could fix anything better than most -- a computer guru to me and a number of others -- and she could even have a Beemer running when the BMW experts had given up. I witnessed this all first-hand. Seeing her in Florida was always a treat, because it included her totally amazing company and a ride on her latest flying creation. She is knowledgeable about so many things and on so many levels. But her greatest gift was her unrestrained love of life and the capacity to be a real and true blue friend, who wasn't ever afraid to say what was on her mind.

My heart is intensely hollow because now she is absent. I know she is in a better place and raising all kinds of hell with the saints and keeping them on their toes. When I moved to Utah, she was one of many I would fiercely miss and a motivation for frequent visits back to Georgia and Florida. When I visit Georgia in July, I will fly off of LMFP's new ramp and she will be tandem with me from launch to landing, in spirit. Somehow having someone else tow me up just wouldn't be the same (besides she needs to be reminded of her roots before she became such a motorhead *grin*).

What an amazing woman. I will never forget her.

Lori Allen
Park City, Utah
skydanse at qwest dot net

 


 

Moments like this, are the ones I find most difficult. Words can not express my feelings. Rather than focus on the pain of losing my friend, let me tell you about her.

I was not yet a hang glider pilot when Les flew a tug at Whitewater. I met her when she came back to visit. It was around the time we put on a Midwest comp. I think it was 2001. Tylor Ross introduced me to her, and we hit it off like we were old friends. She asked me to helped her fix our old golf cart, and in exchange for my help, she gave me a stick and rudder lesson in the dragonfly. I only flew with her for an hour, but I could tell she was an excellent instructor.

I remember the day she convinced Terry Kramer to let her take the superfloater up for a spin. As I recall we had to send Tim Thompson up in the dragonfly to get her to come back down. I have to smile when I think about her sheepish grin, as she explain to Terry and I, how she tried and tried to get it back down, but kept finding more and more lift. She wasn't convincing Me or Terry, but ya just couldn't begrudge her. Her smile was infectious.

I spent New Years Eve 2004 with her and Tylor at Quest. Tim and I spent New Years 2005 at Quest with her as well.

Living out of an RV, trailering her plane behind, Les was a modern nomad, traveling the country from one flight park to the next. Stopping along the way to pick up every stray she found. She had a big heart for a little lady. She had a wealth of aviation information, and was a legend in the sport of HGing, and sport aviation.

I asked her once, if she ever planned on settling down in one place, she told me she couldn't. She said,"How can I settle down in one place, when my extended family lives all over the country?" Her life style was one I envy, she made her own rules, and answered to no one. She was a skilled musician, a skilled mechanic, one hell of a flight instructor, and my friend. I gave her the nick name "Little Sis", when everyone else called me Big "O" she called me Big "Bro".........I'll miss her very much.

I'm going flying tomorrow to honor her memory, I know she would have liked that. She will be flying with me. I know this, because I will be using her skills that she taught to me. When our flight is over, I will make special note of it in my logbook, then share some stories about Les at the campfire. I'm proud to have known her, and will cherish the memories we will always share.

Rest in peace Little Sis, you earned your wings.

Kelly "Big Bro" O'Haver
The Hanghog

 

 

 

 


 

Sorry to hear of Les's passing. I have a photo of her in 2003 and am sending it to you in attachment.

The photo is also on my webpage at www.skydogsports.com/hg-1/quest-photos.htm

Bob Grant
London, Canada

 

 


 

Attached is an image for your tribute to Les Taff.... It's a Water Color Poster I made for her... It's from a Photo I took while she was taking off in her flight Star giving a lesson at Morningside Flight Park....

I recall a flight I had with Les where she spanked me big time... At the time, we had this young High School girl who was flying a Falcon... I saw her in the distance climbing fast and flew over and joined in the fun...

I did all I could to get inside and above her with no luck..... This young one wasn't about to let me or anyone else get in above her... Finally when the day was done I landed along side her ready to congratulate her on the awesome job she did climbing in that Thermal we shared.... Come to find out It wasn't who I thought but was Les in the girls Harness & Wing.... What an amazing woman and pilot... She'll be missed...

Mark Vaughn

 


Click for larger version

 


 

Seven years ago we were setting up the Superior Dragonflyers aerotow operation in Superior Wi. We were fortunate that in our first summer, Les appeared. She came shortly after Bill Moyes delivered our new tug. Boy did we hear stories. Les became our main tug pilot for the season and as usual lived in her motor home, with her pups,at the airport. She was instrumental in the start up of our operation. Her stress on safety was constant and her skill as a pilot was unquestionable. As our first season came to a close, she migrated to warmer clims and did not return, as other oppurtunities arose. We are very thankful for our time with Les and thank her for her contributions. We were saddened to her of her passing, but I'll bet that she is still training someone to do something.

Thank you,

Dan O'Hara (Flair)

 


 

I Remember Les

I was one of those fortunate people who had the pleasure of hanging out with Les, and have been blessed by my experiences with her. The last time we were together was on a 30' sailboat on a lake in Rochester, NY in September of 2004. Les, with her innate knowledge of wind, was making the craft fly through the water when she said, "Here, Anne, your turn." Mind you I'd only ever been on one other sailboat in my life, but I took the tiller and asked for some instruction. Les calmly had me handling the boat in 20+ knot winds and I still do not know how I did it. I do remember the boat's owner remarking that I was doing a great job despite the strong winds, and I remember blaming it all on Les. I'll remember her as a consummate pilot, a gifted healer, a calm and thorough instructor and a wonderful musician and poet. Blue Skies, Les.

Anne Horgan
Tennessee Tree Topper

 


 

Doug, got a great picture of Les bathing her pups at the Quest Air Pond from a couple of years back. She was having a great time. The Arkansas gang enjoyed her company. We'll miss her for sure.

Stump

 


 

My heart is saddened at this news.

Les was an original....and her passing is a huge loss for many.

I had a conversation with her when she was visiting at the cabin of a friend on Lookout Mountain. She was sharing her CD with us....and voicing her concern that she had taken the time to do her CD, when she felt like she really needed to be in Florida for some hanggliding/ultralight shows...She said that she shouldn't have stayed so long...but she did anyways. I remember saying to her that she stayed for a reason....if her musical spirit felt moved, then it was right to stay and finish it....as the spirit may not move her or the chance may not present itself to do it again...

Wow...that conversation certainly takes on a whole new meaning now.....

She indeed left her legacy and a piece of herself....thru her music and a piece of her soul in the hearts of all she met.

I will burn some sage tonight at sunset to honor her spirit.........

Suzanne Slingerland aka Big Fun
Verona Beach, NY

 


 

A friend missed

I met Les about 10 years ago in Wisconsin. It was my first day of solo flying and her first of getting in town to be our new tug pilot. Les and I became close, she lived at the airport and I spent nearly every day there. I do welding, fabrication, and mechanical repair, so anyone who knows Les can imagine how we hit it off. Many people will say that a piece of yourself is lost when you loose someone close; it is very true in many ways. I have had the misfortune of loosing a few of my really close friends over the past 10 years and now that Les is gone I have taken the time to think about that and look at pictures and most of all remember those people. I had not seen Les in about a year prior to her death, I can’t tell if that makes it all easier or more difficult? I missed her for the past year and now I won’t get the chance to see her again. But I have memories, lots of them, one I will never forget was a day about 3 years ago, I was living at the airport at the time, working in one of the hangers when I heard a small plane coming in; I watched it land and taxi back to the tie down area. It was a sweet little plane, the canopy pops open and out jumps Les. I didn’t know it was her at the time, she was too far away. I just stood there as she takes off running straight at me, I figured out who it was about the time she jumped up and wrapped both arms and both legs wrapped around me. She hugged me and said “wanna go fly’n”? We flew and caught up on things and off she went to her next destination. It seems like yesterday. My parents knew Les and have memories and pictures of the times we all spent together during the Midwest comp a couple years ago, I flew, Les tugged, and my parents ground crewed during the comp, but mornings and evenings we shared a lot of time together. She took my Dad up flying in the tug one morning just because she felt he deserved a flight after helping out all week. It was a time he will never forget, and a gesture I will never forget. I have included a couple pictures of Les the day she took my dad flying.

She’s gone flying now, never to return to earth (lucky soul) and what I have is a few pictures and memories: I thank God I have them!

Dan Morris

 

 

 


 

My 85 year old Dad built a Flightstar II 4 years ago and it was our great fortune that Les was working at Morningside the summer we were ready to fly it. She checked me out in her ship, and then came up to our strip to check out our plane and test fly it. I won't go into details but after two days of extensive inspections and correcting many discrepancies it was ready to fly-4 years later and 100 hours it is still flying, trouble free. It never would have happened without Les. My Dad and I were very sad to hear of her leaving this world,way too soon. She had so much more to do....

I think of her every time I am in that plane...I can still hear her advice when I'm on final, and many's the time I say to my Dad "Les wouldn't have liked THAT approach" ...I sure could have learned a lot more from her! She was one in a million.

Sam Townsend, NH

 


 

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