NAMPA -- Wednesday evening, family and friends remembered beloved Idaho aerobatic pilot and motivational speaker Greg Poe at a memorial service at the Idaho Center. He died of a heart attack July 24.
Poe was known for Elevate Your Life , a youth program he started after his son died from drug addiction in 2002. One soon-to-be 9th grader from the east coast who'd just recently gotten to know the pilot through that program and was so inspired that he and his family flew in for the service.
In April, 13-year-old T.J. Williams met Greg Poe and even got to fly with him in the signature red and white ethanol-powered stunt plane.
It was an opportunity of a lifetime, Williams said. I was kind of scared. I was kind of terrified, but it was a once in a lifetime experience.
At his school in Wilmington, North Carolina, Williams won an essay contest to meet and fly with Poe. Williams says the topic was 'what you want to be in life'.
What I said [in the essay] was pretty much I just want to be successful. Whatever I did, I just want to be the best thing overall, Williams said.
At Poe's memorial service, Williams spoke to the crowd as video of his flight with Poe played behind him. Williams says Poe re-enforced his already-budding interest in flying.
I'm in ROTC this year and we're doing U.S. Air Force, and that's what I want to join, the Air Force, Williams said.
Williams says Poe also helped him with his personal life.
I've lost my father and my grandfather, so he helped me out a lot, Williams said. He just gave me the words that he wanted me to keep on going and never put my head down.
In addition to his flight with Poe, Williams says the pilot also gave him special treatment at an air show, making him a VIP and allowing him to sit in Poe's special area.
With Williams' story, it's even more clear: Whether someone had been friends with Poe for years or friends for a short time, he truly has elevated the lives of many.
He meant a lot to me. I met him two times, but those two times he put a big impact on me and my whole life, Williams said.
In Poe's memory, his family is asking people to donate to the Ryan J. Poe Foundation, which supports the Elevate Your Life program. The foundation's executive director says they plan to continue Poe's work and expand.