At The Oaks at Whitaker Glen we are fortunate enough to have many residents who have lived amazing lives that they so graciously share with us. One resident in particular stood out among the rest, and her name is Henri Dawkins. She is small in size but has a big story to share which we featured in our video for the Committed to Caring Project 2017 and Second Wind Dreams.
Henri was born in the 1920’s and grew up during the second world war. Around the age of seventeen she would sneak out of her house and unbeknownst to her parents, she learned to fly a small, single engine plane. Her parents were unaware that she had learned to fly until the one day she took her solo flight. She flew low over her home where her mom was outside hanging out the laundry. She tipped the wing of the plane as to say ‘Hello’ and her mom caught on to the fact that it was her daughter in the pilot’s seat. Wonder how the conversation went that night at dinner?
Henri, along with a small group of peers, pooled their money together to buy and maintain a small plane. At this time in history, such a thing was unheard of. Mrs. Dawkins used her aerial skills to join in the war effort as a civillian to search for enemy ships and submarines along the coast of North Carolina. Of this group, Henri Dawkins was the only FEMALE which in itself was a huge accomplishment.
Henri told us in our interview, that she could not play tennis or basketball or any other sport. But when asked if she wanted to learn to fly she said, ‘Yes…this is something I can do!’
Flying is something that Henri loved to do, and eventually gave up to marry the love of her life. After hearing her story, we were amazed at her bravery and were inspired to recreate a moment in time for her. Once we learned that Henri was more than willing to get up in the air one more time, a plan was put into place to make it happen. We collaborated with Total Flight Solutions in Louisburg, NC and explained to them what our vision was for Henri. On February 22, 2017, Henri Dawkins got into the cockpit of a small engine plane and took off into the sky for the first time in decades. Not only did she get into the cockpit, but she sat in the pilot’s seat AND actually guided the plane to the runway, assisted with the take-off, steered in flight and assisted with the landing. The look on her face was pure bliss! She was accompanied by our activities assistant, Brittany Byrd, a Total Flight Solutions instructor, and a cameraman. The experience went as smooth as the take-off and Mrs. Dawkins had an experience that she will always fondly remember.
Henri’s story is one that is unique and amazing for many reasons. Without realizing it, she paved the way for women to do things that they previously were never considered to be a part of. She is as humble as she is inspiring. We are truly blessed to have Mrs. Henri Dawkins as part of our Whitaker Glen family, and hope that her story will encourage others to chase after their dreams – nothing is out of reach!