My inspiration to restore the Anna came from my Dad, Joe Wilbur. Born to a prominent and successful farmer and businessman of Arizona, Dad came from the sort who pioneered the southwest. Where Greatness was measured in a man by what he'd accomplished rather than what he might say or who he might be. Like his father before him, Dad always considered that anything was possible if you applied yourself and didn't allow the difficulties or challenges encountered to dissuade you from persevering. There was always a way to do what needed to be done and just because you may not have figured out what that was, didn't mean you wouldn't, unless you quit trying. While I am not sure exactly when or how Dad caught the flying bug, I do know he never got over it. We do remember stories of Piper J-3 Cubs and a Globe Swift in Arizona after the war, an airport that is now a residential neighborhood south of town and a Flight School full of GI Bill students. Dad was the kind of dreamer that doesn't come around that often. He realized his dreams the old fashioned way. Hard work and determination bound tightly with more patience than we've seen in any other man.
Dad was a great father, a great mentor, a great friend, a great man who gave more than his share, and for all that, I can't recall him getting angry, accept at me when I pulled some hair brained stunt or worse. You could always count on a smile and a warm reception with Dad. The strength of his heart shone brightly in his eyes and he spread it liberally on all he came in contact with. His "keep trying until you get it right" way of going about doing things, spilled over on most of those he came in contact with. Dad didn't talk much about "getting it done." He was all about doing it and moving on to the next thing to be done. Dad is one of the last of Alaskan Pioneer Aviators to close out his last flight plan. He completed Commercial Flight training in 1959 the summer of Alaska Statehood. He went on to earn a Certified Instrument Flight Instructor Rating and Multi-Engine Instrument Rating and then he came down with that dreaded "swing-wing bug." He flew several models of helicopters, Brantley's, Bells, Fairchild Hiller and even a Hughes 500. There was fish counting and Gold Mine grocery runs, surveyors to drop on mountain tops and communication repeater site generators to refuel. There were reindeer to herd and satellite dishes to be re-aligned, downed aircraft to retrieve from sandbars and beaches, to name only a few of his expeditions.
And then there were sons and daughters to raise, Steve, Anna, Rich, Ken, Meg, Paul and Bruce, seven in all. We all were immersed in and a part of Dad's dream day in and day out. His girls were pumping gas and scrubbing bellies of the airplanes right alongside the boys. And it seemed that if you were big enough it didn't matter how old you were. Dad would set you to doing what needed doing, answer your questions with "now you try it" and leave you to it. Dad's confidence in the abilities of his kids and a trust that we would get it right fostered in us the same independent pioneer spirit his father had given to him. So with the spirit instilled in us by my dad I decided to finish my brother Bruce's final project, The restoration of the Anna. Bruce had recently completed a restoration of a World War II Stinson L5 Bird dog. Bruce was never able to complete the Anna project as he was killed in a plane crash while working as a mechanic for Wilbur's Flight Operations in 1988.