Republic Seabee News 2010

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Jim Poel

July 11:

Good morning,

The surgeries went well (although they took all day).  It's not unusual for Jim to get "shelved" for a few hours in between to take care of a more pressing case.  As a reminder, his left leg was repaired and they reopened his back to find out why it wasn't healing properly.  The leg went fine.  In his back they found/cleaned some dead tissue.  They will revisit that on Thursday, see how it's doing and hopefully close for good.

The final insult came yesterday.  Imagine the poor guy--left leg broken, right leg unusable due to a shattered right pelvis, right arm wrapped and in a splint (broken wrist).  Yesterday they put a splint on his left arm. 

They needed to make a "cut down" to gain access for I.V.'s. He's getting bored as well as better.  How can I tell?  With all this going on, he mentioned he really wanted me to bring his cell phone and a laptop!  I told him I'd had them with me all along, I was just waiting for one good hand to use them.

As one might expect he's lost a ton of weight.  And he certainly never needed to.  He still isn't getting solid food but hopefully will soon.

That's about it this time.  Talk to you in a couple of days.


I spoke with Lovada again this afternoon, as she said, Jim is speaking and becoming more clear, this is great news for all who know him.  As before, our thoughts and prayers are with Jim and Lovada.


July 9:


It looks like I may have to write again later.  Jim was all day in surgery yesterday getting his back looked at/worked on and his broken leg repaired.  I don't have any information other than the operations were completed.

Talk to you later.


July 7:

Good morning,

There isn't a lot to say this morning.  They don't know when he'll leave ICU.  Or when the next two surgeries will be (to work on his back wound and fix his broken leg).  Right now he's in a bit of a holding pattern, working the massive amount of drugs through his system and getting ready for the next "fix".  Seems discouraging, but isn't really.  To be expected.

Keep the good thoughts and prayers coming.


July 4:

Hi Again,

Anyone who knew Jim when he was working knows how he loved to beat schedule.  Well, he's still that way.  At 0800 he woke up, at 0815 they took him off the respirator and ALL meds.  He has a patch for pain relief and his food line (probably out tomorrow) and THAT's IT!!!!!

Later in the day he is making some real sentences.  He really came awake when they changed the dressing on his back and turned him.  He showered staff with a profusion of LOUD words his Mother wouldn't have liked.  Then he started really talking.  Well, not a ton, but he was definitely there, making sentences.  His nurse said, "It's all right" and he responded, quite clearly and loudly, "NO.  IT ISN'T!"  That's my guy!

So now, the real work begins.

Thanks for your prayers and kind thoughts.  I know as sure as anything those made him "come back" that much faster.


June 20:

Just spoke with Lovada Poel this morning, the good news is after last nights surgery they found the location of the internal bleeding and was able to stop it.  After over 30, yes 30 units of blood transfused, this is a great sign that his battle may be turning for the better.  He still has a long hard road ahead of him, but everyday, our hopes are that he gets stronger.  As of today he is in a doctor induced coma to help his body heal. This will remain in effect for about a week.  As before, I believe that your thoughts and prayers are working.  I have already received calls from friends throughout the US and Europe to get more information on his progress.  Thanks to everyone for your good wishes and prayers.


June 19:

Henry Ruzakowski reports this most sad news;

My very good and dear friend and Seabee enthusiast and go-to-guy for many Seabee and especially Franklin engine related help, Jim Poel was involved is a crash yesterday while test flying a Replica 1910 Curtiss Albany Flyer in Penn Yan, NY.  If I am correct it was the first aircraft to fly off an aircraft carrier and was to be use for the US Navy's 100 Year Anniversary next year in San Diego.

Jim's injuries initially was listed as NOT life threatening, however, once at the hospital it was determined that it is was.  Jim's injuries were a broken wrist, shattered pelvis, facial lacerations and a puncture to his lower back caused by the bamboo (the structure of the aircraft is made of bamboo).  It was told to me by Lovada (his wife) today, that the puncture was (as the doctor put it) as large as your fist, lastly, he has internal bleeding which has not been located by the doctors after 2 angiograms, all this is as of 3PM eastern time.

Jim is one of the most respected men in the Seabee community and many of you have spoken with him in the past or met him, his wife and his award winning Seabee at  Sun n Fun or many other Seaplane Fly-In's around the East.  I know my prayers and thoughts are with him and his family during this time.  Jim has been like a brother and a father figure to me, he has bent over backwards and forwards to help me and many others in this small community that we have and I know each of you in your own way will give him the encouragement he and his family needs to get though these days that are the toughest.

Henry Ruzakowski


Dete and Jim Sorensen

Jim Sorensen

[2010 April 11] - Our seaplane family lost one of its finest in the late afternoon of April 7th when Jim Sorensen ("Big Jim", as many of us called him) passed away. He would have been 93 in November. In spite of a number of medical problems that he had been dealing with successfully, he was still driving and getting around until he suffered an aneurism in his head on March 19th and had to be rushed to the hospital and placed in Intensive Care.

All seaplane-pilots either know Jim or have benefited from his influence with legislatures to prevent restrictive rules regarding seaplanes, particularly in California.

When Walter Windus became the West Coast Representative for The U.S.S.P.A. (now SPA), Walt organized the first Clear Lake Seaplane Splash-In that takes place each September, and nearly all of them since. Jim and his wife, Dete, were part of the group of local pilots and business people who work hard each year to make this the major seaplane event of the western U.S.

Walter and his wife, Sue, spend many hours each year promoting seaplane activities and solving problems of access to lakes and reservoirs. Jim owned a Seabee, so helped Walt with problems relating to amphibious activity. Jim and Walter became a great team. Walter did the ground work and Jim supplied the muscle, where needed, with the powers that be.

All of the business people and most of the long-term residents living within fifty miles of Modesto, California know of "Big Jim" Sorensen. Jimís company built a lot of the huge warehouses and factories in that area, and all over the west. As a result he was well known and respected by those who make the rules in California.

Jim had learned to fly while working as a mechanic for Pan Am on China Clippers at Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay in the late 30ís. He had a friend, "Spanky" Allen, who was learning to fly at the Alameda airport near Oakland. They were buddies and after Spanky had soloed, he would take Jim up and show him what he had learned. This friendship lasted throughout their lives. Spanky went on to become a legendary pilot for United Airlines and expired at the controls of his bi-plane years ago. His passenger, who was not a pilot, was talked down to a safe landing by instructions over the radio.

After Jim was able to solo himself he met an attractive blonde nurse named, Dete. He wooed her with flights over the Bay Area and soon won her heart. When Jim could afford it, they were married. Jim often said, she was the best thing that ever happened to him. Those of us who knew them well, fully agreed. In later years when Jim had lost his FAA medical and could no longer fly as pilot in command, Dete learned to fly at age 70 and also checked out on Jimís Cessna turbo 206 on amphibious floats so they could continue making flying trips. When Dete could no longer fly, Jim sold it to his good friend, Tom Hillier, who had taken over the lease on the large hangar Jim had built at Modesto Airport. Tom maintains a private museum there now and the 206 and a few other planes Tom owns are displayed there. These planes are maintained in excellent flying condition. Tom routinely conducts tours for young students from schools in the area.

Jim owned a number of planes through the years. He never drove anywhere that he could reach flying. He owned a Beech Bonanza for a few years but bought a top of the line twin-engine plane Dete named the "Hot Canary". This was a Beechcraft Baron painted a bright yellow. They flew it everywhere in all kinds of weather. Jim was a conscientious, pilot who kept up his piloting skills religiously. He even owned a small flight simulator that he kept at home to practice instrument flying. He meticulously planned everything he did. This applied to his constructing business as well his hobbies.

Jim owned an almond orchard south of Modesto which surrounded his home and outbuildings. This included a well equipped shop where he worked on a number of Seabees he had acquired. He personally restored at least two Seabees that I had located for him. When they were completed they were as near perfect as humanly possible. I have flown dozens of Seabees over the years and none of them were better than Jimís. After Dete passed away in 2003, Jim bought a luxury apartment in a retirement home in Modesto. His good friends, Tom and Margie Hillier kept in close touch with him. They were his closest companions during his final years. Friday night dinners out with Jim and a few friends happened every week.

Don Kyte

Jim's funeral date

Margie and I met last evening with Jim's daughter Sue and his grandson Jimmy to finalize plans. The funeral will be held at the First United Methodist Church, 850 16th Street, Modesto, California, at 10:00am Thursday, April 15. Interment will follow at the Lakewood Memorial Park, Hughson California. After the conclusion of the services, we will provide a light lunch for all of Jim's friends and family at the Hillier Air Museum, 700 Tioga Drive, Hangar 7, Modesto Airport.

All of you are a long way from Modesto and I know it will be impossible to attend but I wanted to share the date and times once they became available. Plans are already underway for a tribute to Jim at the Clear Lake Splash-in in September.

I've been getting the hangar ready...the floor has never looked better. I think Jim would be pleased.

Best regards to you all,
Tom Hillier



HB-SEI Switzerland

[2010 January 28] - Republic RC-3 Seabee # 936 (ex N6659K) has been registered on the Swiss Aircraft Registry as HB-SEI on 23 December 2009.  The proud owner of # 936 is Theodor Frey, who also owns #1001 (ex C-FEII) imported to Switzerland in 2008.


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