On Friday, June 6, 1997, HSLDA board member Jeffery L. Ethell was killed when the vintage P-38 Lightning he was flying crashed just outside the airport in Tillamook, Oregon. Jeff is survived by his wife Bettie, daughters Jennie and Julie, and son David. He was 49.
One week prior to his final flight, Jeff welcomed his first grandchild, John Nathan Chancey, into the world. John Nathan is the son of Jennie and Matt Chancey. Jennie is a former Media and Public Relations Liaison for HSLDA and Matt works for the National Center for Home Education. Julie and Joshua Flournoy (former National Center staffer) are expecting their first baby, the Ethells' second grandchild, in September.
Jeff was a pilot and aviation historian, specializing in World War II aircraft. In 1994, he was inducted as an honorary member into the Order of Daedalians, the very select organization of professional military pilots, reserved for an individual who has substantially furthered the goals and spirit of military aviation. In 1995, he was made an honorary member of the American Fighter Aces Association, those fighter pilots who have scored five or more victories in combat. He was the author of 64 books and over 1000 articles.
Mike Farris, HSLDA president, describes Jeff as "a humble, godly man—so humble in fact that while he served on our board for seven years and while we all knew what he did for a living in general terms, it surprised many of us to learn that Jeff was the preeminent authority in this country on military aviation. But it is his humility, not his preeminence that impresses me most.
"Jeff was a good friend, great father, a loving husband, and a wise counselor to HSLDA."
Serving as an elder in Rileyville Baptist Church, Jeff was involved in many areas of ministry, from teaching adult Sunday school and leading the singles' group to serving on the committee for a new building.
The Virginia homeschooling movement was blessed by Jeff's leadership and service. He was the president of Home Educators of Virginia Association from 1988 to 1989. When his term was completed, he was asked to continue. But instead Jeff stepped down, demonstrating that sometimes true leadership means moving aside so that others learn to lead.
HSLDA is poorer without Jeff on the board. He and Bettie often opened their home to HSLDA single staff and interns, demonstrating abundant hospitality. Jeff expressed a deep and sincere concern for the long-term success and stability of HSLDA and its staff. He will be sorely missed.
And yet the testimony of Jeff's life is his deep love for his Savior and a burning desire that all men may know and partake in the priceless gift of salvation. We know that he is rejoicing in the presence of the Father and that as part of the great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, he is urging us to run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1–2a).
A Life Abandoned to Christ —
by Jennie Ethell Chancey
Always a Great Adventure
For my dad, life unfolded as a great adventure. "You never know where the Lord is going to lead you next," he often said, grinning widely with a twinkle in his eye. That sense of anticipation and excitement accompanied him always, and God gave Dad countless opportunities to serve Him all over the globe. But great adventures never come to us in predictable ways.
From childhood, Dad intended to follow in his father's footsteps, entering the Air Force when he graduated from high school and flying the airplanes he loved. He had already learned to fly early on, sitting on telephone books next to his dad in the cockpit at age eight and earning his pilot's license by the time he was eighteen. It looked like a glorious military career stretched before him. God had other plans for Dad, though.
When he took the required Air Force physical, my father found out that his poor vision would disqualify him from flying anything but a desk. Devastated, Dad decided to enter King College and look for other outlets for his piloting skills. Majoring in English and history, Dad wrote over 70 term papers, most of them about his favorite topic: aviation history. Dad's professors were impressed with his skills and urged him to consider becoming published. Research grants awarded by the Smithsonian Institution would allow Dad to do just that, but flying was still the apple of his eye, and he was determined to find a career to match.
Considering work on the mission field, Dad talked with a pilot at Moody Aviation who gave him a startling bit of advice: give up flying. Dad was stunned. The mission pilot said he believed my father had made an idol of flying and should let it go unless God opened doors in the future. Dad took that difficult counsel to heart and pushed his dreams of being a pilot to the back of the closet. After marrying, he and Mom worked at a mission center, counseling drug addicts and leading many to Christ. Dad also attended seminary for a time, assuming that if he wanted to serve God, the only way to do it right was as a full-time minister. Then the adventure really became evident.
Over the next ten years, God opened doors my father would not have had an opportunity even to knock upon had he gone into the Air Force. After the Lord led Dad and Mom out of the drug ministry, He paved the way for Dad's first book to be published, providing contacts and information others didn't believe could be found. Once Dad's writing career took off, God gave Dad what he had dreamed of as a child: the chance to fly the great airplanes of the past. God literally brought the flying time to Dad's doorstep, giving him the training and opportunities to fly over 150 types of aircraft, from the fabric-covered biplanes of World War I to the sleek fighter jets of today's Air Force and Navy. In addition, Dad was asked to fly in foreign military planes, traveling to England, Germany, South Africa, Argentina, Italy, Chile, Canada, the former Yugoslavia and other countries. He often said he felt like a kid in a candy shop, and he constantly gave God the credit for his incredible life.
Growing up, our whole family shared in this marvelous adventure. As homeschoolers, we could travel with Dad almost everywhere he went. But that wasn't what made us love Dad. There was so much more to my father's life than the airplanes, the writing, the Discovery Channel shows, and videos he made.
Foremost, Dad was a Christian, wholly committed to the Lord and determined to let Him reign in every area of his life. We are called to Christ, Dad said, not to a "ministry." We must minister wherever the Lord puts us. For my father, that meant placing family before work and giving a higher priority to people than to perishable things. I never knew a time when Dad wasn't available to his family. He was the patriarch of our home, an able leader who made it a joy to follow him, simply because he completely submitted to Christ and gave us an example of joyful servanthood.
Dad never made any claims to brilliance or special ability. He would not want to be remembered as a genius. His legacy is that he was a sinner saved by grace and equipped by God. He gave God the glory for everything he was able to accomplish and constantly reminded us that the Lord is the only source of our talents. Dad encouraged Christians to follow Christ with abandon, trusting Him to lead, to provide and to open doors. Only then will the adventure unfold.
The Psalmist tells us that our Sovereign God ordains our days before any of them come to pass. Dad lived out his days with great joy, and God poured out blessings upon him. On June 6th, Dad's work on earth completed, God called my father Home. And what a legacy Dad has left behind! His work in aviation history remains for future generations to enjoy. Most importantly, his witness for Christ has left an impression that will count eternally. May God teach us to live each day adventurously in Christ, just as my father did.