Aviation memorial service

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Jamie Bennee and David Whitney remembered

“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness….No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

—John Donne
Recited by President Holland at the memorial service.

Two Twin Star aircrafts took the place of coffins at the school-sponsored memorial service for flight instructor Jamie Bennee and Aviation student David Whitney Jr. on Tuesday, Nov. 30. Around 250 family, friends, school officials and members of the Aviation department gathered at the Provo Airport to pay tribute.

Bennee’s aunt, Kelley Patrick, described a “unique, special, amazing” woman who lived a life of service. She noted the many accomplishments of her niece, despite having a life cut short. These included serving an LDS mission in the Philippines, two degrees in Accounting and Aviation, working three jobs, a successful marriage and two children.

When Danalea Cope, Bennee’s mother, spoke of her daughter, she described “a loving, giving soul.” She emphasized her daughter’s willingness to serve others and read a poem written by Bennee’s father. Her bishop, Peter Ehat, encouraged those in attendance to continue Bennee’s legacy of service.

A narrative of Whitney’s life was presented by his brother-in-law, Austin Bowles. He said that Whitney moved a lot growing up, but trips to air shows in Texas with his father led to an interest in flying. Serving an LDS mission to Mexico gave him “a love for the Mexican people and hot food.” A follow-up trip back to Mexico led to meeting his wife, Maria Angelica Lopez. They were married last December.

Camilla Whitney Bowles said it was hard not to smile while she talked about her brother. She said that Whitney was “such a nerd” and that when he was young, his mother would have to sing superhero theme songs for him to do his chores. She also noted that while looking through family photos, Whitney was either holding or had an arm around a sister in every picture.

President Matthew Holland noted that speaking at this occasion was “the most sobering responsibility I have faced as president of Utah Valley University.” He described Bennee and Whitney as pioneers for being part of a field that is advancing civilization. He also expressed that the memorial service not only was a time to grieve, but a celebration and “triumph of spirit, triumph of goodness [and] triumph of community.”

Several students performed musical numbers. Emily Smith and her brother David performed an a cappella version of “Come Home” by Penelope Allen Moody and Michael F. Moody. The school’s Chamber Choir sang “O Lux Beatissima,” also without accompaniment.

After the service, those who loved Bennee and Whitney stayed to share memories, offer gestures of kindness and look at the airplanes both enjoyed flying so much.