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Aviation leader gone but not forgotten

Rudy Rozsypalek Memorial Park fundraiser to take place June 7



Nearly a year after the tragic accident that took his life, the memory of Rudy Rozsypalek lives on in the skies over Pemberton.

And before long, the aviation enthusiast's legacy will be cemented in the mountain village for years to come.

This weekend, a barbecue and fundraiser will be held for the Rudy Rozsypalek Memorial Park at the airport where he spent the majority of his Canadian life.

"(Rudy and his wife Tracey) started their business there out of a tent on the airstrip ... that was their office, and they lived in a mobile home," recalled family friend Donna Hasan, one of the organizers for the event.

The Rozsypaleks' proximity to the airport meant that many a momentous occasion was spent in the park that will soon bear Rudy's name.

"They had their wedding reception there," Hasan said.

"Birthdays, reunions, you name it, so that (was) very much a part of their life over the years. To have that area kind of looked at and revitalized, where many milestones have been celebrated, it's going to be a fabulous place of celebration and remembrance."

Rozsypalek arrived in Canada from then-Czechoslovakia in 1989, and met his future wife Tracey the following year.

The couple moved to Pemberton in 1993, where they soon married and had two sons.

Plans for the memorial were put in motion shortly after Rozsypalek's death, when the aviation community of Pemberton approached the village with the idea, Hasan said.

"The village staff began meeting with Tracey and the boys, and kind of wanted to start creating a vision for the park, like what they would like to see there," she said.

Plans for the park include a memorial plaque, signage, a built-in brick barbecue and a children's play area modelled after an L-23 Super Blanik glider.

Rozsypalek, founder of Pemberton Soaring gliding tours, was killed on June 29, 2013, when his glider collided with a small Cessna plane over Nairn Falls Provincial Park.

Twenty-one-year-old Mohnish Paul, a tourist from India who was a passenger on Rozsypalek's glider, also died in the collision.

Terence Gale, 42, and his spouse Rita Turnbull, 51, pilot and passenger of the Cessna, respectfully, were killed as well.

Eric Pehota, a close friend of Rozsypalek's, described him as a great man with a passion and drive for life.

His knowledge of the skies over Pemberton was hard to match, Pehota said.

"As far as putting time in in the mountains around here I don't think there's anybody that had more flying days around this valley than Rudy," he said.

"Not even close."

Every year, Rozsypalek would open up Pemberton Soaring as soon as the runway was open — usually in late April — and fly until the end of September.

"So he was flying half the year, maybe even more," Pehota said.

"I think it's a fitting tribute to the guy that spent most of his Canadian life actually living and working at the airport, making it a better place."

The Rudy Rozsypalek Memorial Park BBQ and Fundraiser begins Sat., June 7 at 2 p.m.

Tickets for the event are $15 per person or $40 per family and include meals and live entertainment.

Tickets can be purchased at RONA, the Pemberton Community Centre, Village of Pemberton Office or the Loghouse B&B.


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