Harry, EAA 16857, and Jan Crisman have been a part of the EAA volunteer scene for quite a while — since 1963, in fact!
“Our first time was in 1963 in Rockford,” Harry explained. “That’s when I joined. I ended up stringing banners that day. We were there only two days.”
Though missing a few years here and there, Harry and Jan continued to come back, helping keep the fly-in running through a variety of jobs.
“The first year I volunteered [at Oshkosh] I was running the road grader pushing dirt south of the Theater in the Woods filling holes,” Harry said. “We started down in Ultralights when we started full time because I had a heart attack, and I had to start flying ultralights. I did maintenance down there, and [Jan] was a coffee babe.”
Besides being a ‘coffee babe,’ Jan has worked with the kitchen, the welcome wagon, and a variety of other areas. However, she has one job she values over all the rest.
“I’m an enabler for [Harry],” Jan said. “If I didn’t take care of him, he wouldn’t be here. It enables him to get out and keep going.”
Harry and Jan have worked together in a number of jobs, including burning lines in the grass.
“I burn all the lines that you see for parking,” Harry said. “There were a lot of places you couldn’t see over the hill for the other end, so Jan would drive a gator with a roof on it and put a cone on top of it, and then wear a green hat or something and make it easier for me, so I could see over the hill.”
This pair has been in aviation for a long time. In fact, one of Harry’s old airplanes is in the EAA Aviation Museum.
“There’s an airplane in the museum that I flew maybe 300 hours when I was a kid,” Harry said. “I gave [Jan] her first ride in an airplane in that plane.”
Despite living and working together, Harry and Jan are far from tired of each other.
“One year I stayed home and he came up here by himself for a while,” Jan said. “I found a ride to come up with some neighbors because I didn’t like it, being alone.”
“I embarrassed her,” Harry said and laughed. “I kissed her right out in front of everybody!”
After 50-plus years of volunteering, the Crismans have some advice for incoming volunteers.
“We’ve lived in Audrey’s Park 15 years,” Harry said. “We skipped the picnics for quite a few years, and this year we went to the picnic and met the other people. My advice to them would be to socialize more than what we did.”
Volunteers make EAA AirVenture Oshkosh — and just about everything else EAA does — possible. This space in EAA Sport Aviation is dedicated to thanking and shining the spotlight on volunteers from the community. Sadly, it cannot capture all of the thousands of volunteers who give so much to the community every year. So, next time you see a volunteer at AirVenture or elsewhere, however they are pitching in to make EAA better, be sure to thank them for it. It’s the least we can do. Do you know a volunteer you’d like to nominate for Volunteer Spotlight? Visit EAA.org/Submissions.