– not to her, not to her husband, not to her parents, not to anyone. Not yet. Only her doctor knew. She wrote the gender on a slip of paper, placed it in an envelope, and sealed the envelope before giving it to Abby.

Moms-to-be often announce the genders of their babies by adding blue or pink food coloring to the middle of a cake, or releasing blue or pink balloons. But Abby had something else in mind, and asked internationally acclaimed aerobatic pilot and retired Northwest Airlines Capt. Julie Clark if she would make it happen. Always eager to put smiles on people’s faces, Julie readily agreed, and Abby gave her the sealed missive. A few days later, Julie would reveal the secret in a very special way.

Now living in Rosemount, Abby grew up in Sky Harbor, a close-knit community of aviation enthusiasts a few miles south of Lake­ville. For many years, Julie Clark has lived just across Sky Harbor’s wide grass runway from Abby’s parents, Sandy Spanier and her husband Mark, a Delta Air Lines 747 captain. Clark has long been a friend of the family and an inspiration for Abby.

Sandy invited a few of her close friends over for the big announcement. Practically bursting with pride, Mark couldn’t resist inviting many others. The expected gathering would now be considerable.

The stage was set: family, neighbors and other friends gathered alongside the 2,800-foot-long runway as Julie Clark fire-walled the throttle of her T-34 Mentor. The aircraft lifted from the turf and climbed steeply into a breezy summer sky. Then, using white air-show smoke, Julie scrolled her signature heart against a blue backdrop, next performed a six-G turn to pierce the heart, and then headed for the runway.

Heads were tilted skyward, and eyes were focused on the Mentor as Julie lined up her aircraft to do a low, 150-mph flyby. How would she break the news? The answer came a few seconds later when blue smoke billowed from the Mentor’s wing tips. It was a boy! Cheers went up, followed by misty eyes and many embraces.

Abby and her husband Nate, each a Compass Airlines pilot, have decided on a name for their first child, but want to keep it to themselves until the boy is born early next month. I was about to suggest to Abby that she again ask for Julie’s help, but thought better of it. Even Julie Clark might have difficulty writing, for example, “Christopher Jonathan Altman” in the sky.

I suggest that you clip out this column and put it in a safe place until the year 2038. Take it with you when you fly Delta or Delta Express somewhere. If a first officer with a name tag saying “Altman” greets you while you are deplaning, you will know that he followed in his parents’ and grandfather’s footsteps to become an airline pilot. Show him the clipping, and tell him, “I knew you when….”


Jerry Goodrich is a Prior Lake resident.