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Former Air Force pilot accepts critical mission for food bank

Life may not be as dramatic as flying cargo in and out of tight spots during wartime, but helping others has offered Jerry DeLaFontaine a lifetime of joy. - Courtesy photo
Life may not be as dramatic as flying cargo in and out of tight spots during wartime, but helping others has offered Jerry DeLaFontaine a lifetime of joy.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Jerry DeLaFontaine, 88, enjoys helping others.

As a 20-year volunteer with Multi-Service Center’s Federal Way Food Bank, and the Community Caregiving Network, DeLaFontaine has met nice people along the way and has had fun making an impact in his community.

“It’s a duty, really, to do something for someone else,” he said. “It’s the best way to spend your hours, to help others who need help.”

DeLaFontaine’s service to others started in spring 1943, when he left college to enlist in the United States Air Force. As a pilot of cargo planes, DeLaFontaine flew small, single-engine planes and larger C-47s throughout the Philippines and New Guinea.

He had a crew of 12 guys, mostly former crop-duster pilots. “They were some of the best pilots in the world,” he said. Together, they shuttled everything from shovels to jeeps, and hospital equipment to mail, all to reinforce troops doing battle.

As a pilot, there were many places he had to learn to land a plane in tight spaces, like on a neighborhood street in between houses. “There was no room for mistakes,” he said.

He remembers a couple of times when his plane crashed — once when the wings came off and the plane just fell apart. “Luckily, it didn’t burn. I’m a lucky guy,” he said. “God takes good care of me.”

DeLaFontaine still carries important items to people in need, his mission now less risky, but still critical. He volunteers as a member of the food bank’s van-driving crew, picking up donated food from area grocery stores to bring back to families in need.

“I’m surprised that so many people need help, more help than they can get really,” he said.

When he’s not helping others, DeLaFontaine and his wife Janice — they’ve been married for 65 years — do a bit of traveling, or spend time with their growing family of three children, eight grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

 

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