I sat in the right seat calling out altitude and looking for runway lights. Tommy McKithen sat like a stone statute in the back seat. Dave calmly spoke to the tower and lined up the two needles on the ILS (instrument landing system). We were in a cocoon of pure white rain as thick as wet cotton.
“Seven-hundred-feet-no lights”, I informed Dave. “Five-hundred-feet-no lights”, I continued to advise. “Three-hundred-feet…runway lights dead ahead”, I announced happily. Dave greased his Stinson Voyager onto Runway 10 at Moisant airport in New Orleans in a blinding rainstorm. Dave needed to get home so he could fly right seat to Houston for Eastern Airlines the next day.
As a sixteen-year-old in the New Orleans squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, I had just soloed a J3 cub and been with Dave many times when he slid his little blue Voyager gracefully onto a runway while discussing the works of Saint Thomas Aquinas or some other philosopher. He was the best pilot I flew with in those days. Dave also instructed us kids in the CAP squadron in the basics of aerodynamics, navigation and meteorology, all the while throwing in information about current findings in the world of parapsychology or whatever other scientific discoveries had occurred recently.
Once, he took a couple of us with him to visit his friend at the Benedictine Abbey north of Covington, Louisiana. Later in life, I learned Dave had studied for the priesthood near Cleveland, Ohio. While at the Abbey in Covington, Dave went into the chapel and, to my astonishment, began to play the great organ with passion and dexterity. One of Dave’s priest friends approached me and said, “Dave does justice to Bach, don’t you think?”
After entering college, I lost track of Dave for about four years until my former wife and I invited Dave to be a part of our wedding party in 1955. Neither of us had seen Dave during that time when he developed alopecia and lost all of his body hair. On the night of the wedding rehearsal at Holy Name of Jesus Church on the Loyola University campus, Dave’s late arrival was announced by the roar of his motorcycle. We all looked up in silent disbelief to see this ghostly figure wearing cowboy boots strolling down the aisle toward us.
Dave’s skin glowed chalk-white with not a bit of hair to give it texture. With no eyelashes or eyebrows, his face looked like the beginning of an artist’s portrait where only the deep, dark eyes had been painted in on stark white canvas. Dave had plopped an outlandish red toupee, which must have come from his back pocket, atop of his completely bald head. His appearance startled all of us.
“You know I would like to be in your wedding tomorrow, but I may have to take a flight to Houston. I wish you well,” Dave said. This was Dave’s way of telling us, “You really don’t want this freakish looking fellow standing in your wedding and I am letting you off the hook.”. We would have been happy to have him, but of course he didn’t show up.
Dave drifted back into my life in 1960 when he came to my law office with two members of the Cuban Revolutionary Forces and asked me to represent them in a suit in which their landlord sought to evict them from premises on Canal Boulevard in New Orleans. Dave explained, “I am helping to train these folks in military tactics at a site north of Lacombe, Louisiana. Come out and visit our training camp, Tom.” I declined that invitation, but did represent the two Cubans in their eviction case.
From time to time, Dave returned to my office seeking pro bono representation for someone. During these visits he talked vaguely about his current activities. On one occasion he asked, “Do you know ‘The Little Man’—Carlos Marcello?”
I replied, “I only know him by reputation, but have never met him.”
Dave asked, “Would you like to go to Churchill Farms (Marcello’s secluded camp in a swamp south of Westwego, Louisiana) and meet him?” I declined that invitation also. These conversations with Dave about Marcello led me to believe, with a great degree of certitude, that he knew the Mafia boss well and that Dave was probably the man who flew Marcello back into the country after Bobby Kennedy “deported” him.
Dave Ferrie was a strange, enigmatic man. I know that Jim Garrison, Oliver Stone, and probably many others, thought he had something to do with President Kennedy’s assassination. I don’t know about that, but I do know Dave trained Cuban Revolutionary Forces and associated with Carlos Marcello. Beyond that, I know that Dave was curious about everything, and flew an airplane as smoothly as Lindberg and played an organ like an angel.