Dyer County, Tennessee
I was sitting in my favorite Mexican restaurant here the mountains of Virginia when I got the message from a mutual friend Joe Markham down in Florida. “Steve Shannon died this morning.” Within a minute I had a message from his daughter Stephene telling me the same thing. How do you describe Steve Shannon? It’s hard to do, but I’ll try my best.
For years when I was piloting TV news tapes all around the mid-south in a private plane Steve would often ride co-pilot just to hang out and enjoy the flight. I enjoyed the company since many of those flights were by myself. I’d made the routes so many times it got major boring at times. Years later Steve had the bug and got his own pilot’s license. He mainly flew for fun in a Piper J-3 Cub that his brother in law at the time had. I eventually even had Steve fly me in that plane when I needed some aerials from a nice low and slow plane.
The only time I had a near death experience in an airplane Steve was with me. As was his daughter Stephane mentioned above. She was about 14 at the time. It was just a few days before Christmas in 1984. I’d flown from the Dyersburg, TN airport (KDYR) to the Jackson, TN airport (KMKL) to pickup a news tape from the late Doug Viar. From there I was to fly it down to Memphis and drop it off at the Downtown DeWitt Spain airport (KM01) right on the Mississippi River. From there a cab would take it to the station to air. Then we’d take off and head back home to Dyersburg. I’d made the flight dozens of times. Uneventful. This time we’d just climbed out to about 3500′ and headed into a fleeting sunset as the night lights starting coming up. Then the engine started coughing violently. Though it never quit, I had no power. Nothing worked. His daughter Stephanie in the back understandable got scared and started crying. Steve who had just lit a cigarette and settled into the pretty night ride dropped his cigarette in floor of the plane when the coughing motor startled him. I made a gentle turn back to the airport in hopes to make the runway. If I didn’t it was going to be Interstate 40, at night! Yikes! We’ve made it back and had to be towed off the runway. Lucky. We all laughed eventually but knew we were damn lucky.
Steve and I were business partners for years. Steve didn’t play. He was as generous as they come, but also had zero tolerance for bureaucratic BS. My wife’s nickname for him was always Sneaky Bastard. She was right when she said Steve wasn’t always the most articulate, but he was damn good in the trenches. And he was. From tower projects, to two way radio systems, to founding a major alarm company, to being a reserve deputy and constable that would ride with me at night when I was a cop, Steve had his hands in just about everything. Steve taught me to water ski. He helped me become a better pilot. How to navigate life and not take BS from people that dished it out.
I haven’t seen Steve in person in probably 10 years. The last time was right after he’d been recovering from one of his many heart surgeries. Steve smoked a lot. I mean a lot. When we met up that day, we had BBQ and French fries. He had a cigarette after lunch. That was Steve, hard headed but solid. Good in the trenches. Yes, Yes he was.
As we say in flying when the skies are clear blue, “Rest easy Steve. Severe clear ahead!”
It was a mighty good run Steve, glad I was along for some of the ride.