Jim Winter

Words and music by Hank Fridell
with Mr. Trandem’s 5th Grade Class
©2009 Hank Fridell




      Jim Winter

Dreams, look for planes in the sky
Dreams, they can help you fly
Teach you things you don’t know
Take you where your legs can’t go
Dreams, keep it simple
Dreams, use common sense

I loved my model planes
And in my room they hung
Learned to fly, what a thrill
All when I was young


In my shop, fixing things
It’s where I like to be
But I learned to be careful when I realized
I forgot a nickel cotter key


Alaska Highway, that’s my dream
On a lake my plane we’ll land
And from my recliner in the co-pilot’s seat
I’ll fish as long as I can



Mr. Jim Winter was born in 1935. He experienced his share of hardships growing up in Huron, SD. His sister died when she was 6 days old. At the age of 5, Jim contracted polio and was crippled and unable to walk. Through all this, his strength and determination shined through. Although it took over a year, he taught himself to walk again. He considers that accomplishment the hardest thing he’s ever done.

Airplanes have been Jim’s passion since he was a young boy. He said he would run out of the house every time he heard an airplane fly overhead. His room as a young boy had model airplanes hanging all over the ceiling. He didn’t know at the time that this love for planes would lead to a much bigger (and more expensive) hobby later in life.

Jim’s biggest hero growing up besides his brother, Don, was Joe Foss. Joe was a “heck of a nice guy” who would hunt in Huron every year. Joe was an ace in WWII and was governor of South Dakota for awhile. Today, Jim’s biggest hero is his brother Don. He talks to him every night on ham radio, another of Jim’s hobbies.

When he was young, Jim brokered a deal with a local flight instructor. The instructor told him that if he painted his house, he would teach him to fly. Jim enlisted his friends to help him and they painted it in a day. The instructor kept his end of the bargain, and Jim had his pilot’s license. He did all this without telling his parents!

Jim’s goal was to be a fighter pilot in the Korean War. He went with three other friends to try to enlist, but failed the physical due to his polio earlier in life. One other friend failed the physical also, and the two friends that made it were both killed in combat in Korea. He feels lucky now that he didn’t go.

The most important thing in Jim’s life now is his family. His wife of 50 years is currently in the nursing home and he worries about her a lot. He has many children and grand-children that he tells interesting stories about. His biggest dream now is to take his 1947 Republic Seabee to the Alaska Highway with his grandson. Although the plane doesn’t look like much now, we’ve seen the other planes Jim has made and we know it will look great. His grandson joked that they should take the co-pilot seat out and put a recliner in instead.

Jim learned the importance of being careful when he forgot to put a cotter key worth five cents into his engine. His plane lost power shortly after take-off and he managed to set it down gently enough to survive. Although he was injured, it didn’t take away from his love or respect for airplanes at all.

Jim has lived his life by the advice he gave us: Use common sense no matter what you do, that’s all it takes. Keep it simple. Think it out before you jump in. Jim has done these things throughout his life and we think his life is one to be admired.

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