Les Taff died tragically on April 1, 2006. She fell from a tree and
suffered severe head trauma.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
greeting still sounds in my mind at the oddest times.........Hey youuu...
(judyfood at mindspring dot com)
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
think I like this planet nearly as much without her.
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.
of Les in Kansas and Florida, 2002-2004
Instructional Articles by Les Taff
of Harmonious Towing
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.
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
What an amazing woman. I will never forget her.
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
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.
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
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
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...
for larger version
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.
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
Tennessee Tree Topper
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.
heart is saddened at this news.
was an original....and her passing is a huge loss for many.
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
conversation certainly takes on a whole new meaning now.....
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.
burn some sage tonight at sunset to honor her spirit.........
Suzanne Slingerland aka Big Fun
Verona Beach, NY
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 cant
tell if that makes it all easier or more difficult? I missed her for
the past year and now I wont 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 didnt 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 flyn? 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.
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!
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
by Doug DuBois -- nospam (at) questiongravity (dot) com
send your photos and remembrances to be included here.