Special to the Village News
Al Ollivares has been a pilot on hundreds of flights, from a small Cessna to Air Force CI24 cargo planes taking equipment and supplies to the war in Vietnam. Following a 20-year career in the military, he flew commercial planes, and his flight logs show 14,410.55 hours in the air.
His last flight was on Feb. 24, 1986, with his wife Barbara as co-pilot.
Daughter Keri Cook arranged to let him fly again on a small plane out of Fallbrook Airport on July 23, but the day didn't go as planned. Local pilot Ed Murray and his son Jayden offered a flight over Fallbrook and the ocean, but there was a hitch. Ollivares went to the airstrip with wife Barbara, but the surprise flight didn't happen.
"They both were not feeling very well, and he said no," Cook said.
"When he retired as a pilot, he said his flying days were over," explained Barbara Ollivares, his wife of 49 years. "He hasn't been on a plane since."
"I just refused. I had no interest," was the former major's explanation for the change in plans.
"He can be stubborn," said Cook. "I think he would have enjoyed flying again."
Interviewed at his home on River Oaks Lane, Ollivares said he indeed enjoyed flying. "Yes, I loved it, except going into those 'lousy storms.'"
After a 20-year career in the Air Force, he worked for Meteorology Research Institute analyzing thunderstorms and fog. It was at MRI that he met Barbara.
"We were both single, the right age, had failed first marriages, and worked together on some things," she recalled.
There were some rocky periods in the beginning, they both admitted, but they are stronger than ever and are looking forward to their 50th anniversary next year on June 16.
"We're a team, helping each other," Barbara noted. Daughter Keri admired their devotion to each other other and their family. Daughter Eryn and son Earle also live in Fallbrook. Earl's home is just over a quarter mile away at the edge of the Fallbrook Cemetery. It's a route familiar to Al, who walks his beloved dog Charlie, an aging goldendoodle, nearly every morning about 9:00 to his son's house.
"I use a cane and do fine," said the former distance runner. "The cane keeps me safe and I go slow. I'm in no hurry!"
The long-time Fallbrook resident is known in the community for helping others. For years, he drove seniors to medical appointments through the Senior Care Van, helped with the improvements to the previous Chamber of Commerce building on East Mission, assisted with the Fallbrook Art Association, and served on boards for the VFW and for the American Legion, as well as in other ways.
"He was always helping people," Cook said. "When I was a single mom of a baby and a toddler, he acted as a father figure for them and lovingly took us in till we could get on our feet."
Ollivares said he still gets up early, about 6 a.m., for coffee and toast. He fills the water fountain for birds in his back yard before walking Charlie. Then it's nap time.
He said that he and Barbara like to sit and relax now. "I used to be a runner, but the doctor said no more. My eyesight and hearing are great, but I tire easy and like to nap. I have some issues with memory, but it's not serious."
In June, Ollivares celebrated his 50th anniversary of retiring from the Air Force.
He didn't really join the Air Force. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps at age 17, the Monday after graduating from high school in Redondo Beach.
"I had the one-stripe Army chevron, but after I enlisted the Air Force was born and I switched," he recalled. "The commander asked 100 men about volunteering for pilot school – he said, 'You would be a fool not to' – but me and one other guy were the only ones. I was the only one to graduate."
His military flights included taking monthly supply trips in C128s to Vietnam, from Tacoma to Hawaii, Wake Island, and Japan.
"The military was good," he said. "I was able to advance to major and we always got paid last day of the month."
Later, he worked for Northrup and took officials on flights to Area 51 in New Mexico.
Being a pilot, he traveled extensively but returned to Redondo Beach to buy a home. When he finally retired, he and Barbara sold that home and moved to Fallbrook.
"We were able to buy this home with the money from the sale. The first time we saw the home and the view from the back we knew this is where we wanted to be," he recalled. "The view is spectacular."
Ollivares has a card showing his registration No. 1 as member (oldest) of the Acjachemen Nation in Orange County. He turns 92 on Nov. 29.