Aviation, love of flag runs in family

Nevin Earl Ballreich flew Corsairs during World War II and after while he was still in the military. When he would come home on leave he would earn extra money teaching students to fly so he could provide for his wife and their first child, who was on the way.

On his wife’s birthday, Aug. 19, 1951, with his bride 2 months pregnant, Ballreich was teaching a young student to fly. The plane was a two-seater piper cub, with the student in the front seat and Ballreich in the back. The student passed out and fell onto the throttle stick, with his body weight holding it down.

Ballreich could not reach over the student’s body to correct this life-threatening situation.

The plane went down near the village of Republic, and both the student and the experienced pilot perished in the accident. His son, Nevin E.B. Ballreich, was born 7 months later, March 21, 1951.

Ballreich’s wife remarried a few years later to his best friend and fellow war veteran, Paul Martin, who owned a heating and cooling company in Tiffin.

Nevin E.B.’s love for the American flag started when he was young, with his membership in the Boy Rangers, who met at Camp Herzer on River Road in the late 1950s. Nevin E.B. learned about proper flag etiquette – how to fly it, to have it well lit at night and how to retire the flag. It was his way to never forget the father he never knew.

When asked at a young age what his favorite color was, he would reply: “I have three favorite colors: red, white and blue.”

Nevin E.B. started working in his family’s heating and cooling business at an early age and, by the time he turned 16, his desire to fly was something he could no longer ignore. He flew for recreation and worked part-time for Tiffin Aire at the Seneca County Airport to make extra money while he helped run Martin Brothers Heating & Cooling.

July 5, 1985, he married Joan Lonsway. Later in the year, he also earned his instructor’s license at Tiffin Aire. Joan gave her husband a traveler’s prayer coin, which he always carried in his pocket.

The couple redid a duplex on Sycamore Street and made it a home for their four children. He found the original carriage step on the property, with the original home owner’s name carved in it. He designed the patio to include this stone, along with one with their name and a working cistern with a hand pump.

His family celebrated the summer holidays every year with large family picnics, and participating in the local parades with July 4 being the big day in the Martin household.

Family members, neighbors and friends totaling 40 or more would stop by the house, and Nevin E.B. would fire up the grill and make his specialty, wing dings. The kids would play with sparklers in the front yard going to watch the Tiffin fireworks display. Nevin E.B. found if he parked at Greenlawn Cemetery, he would have a great view of the show and he would beat the traffic when it was over.

Joanie Martin loved Thanksgiving with all of the families gathering together and, because everyone lived so close, often they walked to each other’s house to celebrate the holiday.

Nevin E.B. continued to fly his flag proudly on their Sycamore Street home, and he encouraged his neighbors to respect Old Glory as well making sure their flags were lit at night, folded correctly and retired properly.

In 2000, at 49, Nevin E.B., sold the family business so he could focus on his second love, flying full time at Tiffin Aire. He flew passengers and freight and taught students how to fly. His life was beginning to become more fulfilling now – his children were a little older, and they would enjoy going up with him on some of his recreational flights, especially his son, Nevin Earl.

Pearl Harbor Day, Dec 7, 2004, he was flying freight to Dayton. Entering Dayton’s airspace was foggy with low visibility. The plane went down just short of the runway, and Nevin E.B. perished in the accident.

The crash investigators mentioned to his widow they found a travelers prayer coin neatly placed on top of the right wing. How it got there, no one on earth knows; perhaps the spirits in the sky played a part in it.

Presently, Nevin E.B.’s son, Nevin Earl, has carried on his father’s spirit, both on land and in the sky. His interest in flight started when he was young. He earned enough money to get his first flight books at 14.

At 19, Tiffin Aire offered him a job, where he remains today.

He has taken on the love of the American flag like his father and grandfather before him. He calls on family members when he is not home to make sure the flag is lit at night, or taken in if the weather is too rough. Joan recently purchased a solar-powered lighting mechanism with an electronic timer to make sure her flag is always illuminated.

Joan flies the flag now for many reasons – for her late husband, her late father-in-law and for all those who have devoted their lives to this country. Three generations of fliers, both of flags and planes, make sure Old Glory is taken care of well.

John Schupp is an assistant professor of chemistry at Tiffin University. Email him at schuppjd@tiffin.edu.