Issue 48: Empty Spaces

Bill (Pa) Burley
March 19, 2006

Pa Burley will be sorely missed in our lives… Where is he?? Where is he, you know that old guy with all the kites? We are all going to be saying this as we go to the flying fields around the NorthWest. Pa (Bill) Burley was one of the Great folks you could always depend on to be on the flying field early every morning. You would find him in the middle of crowds of people talking kites or discussing a new kite he wanted to build. You might find him trudging out onto the flying field to tweek a bridle or bring one kite down, just to put another up. We would also find him running out to get his kites unwrapped from another kite and grumbling just a little. If you got close enough to take a really good look under the brim of his hat you would also see a smile for everyone he meets. He was a great friend and huge supporter of kite flying. He always had time for everyone and was always willing to help you with your kite if it was misbehaving.

Ma and Pa Burley have quite a collection of kites, some purchased from local stores but more than a few that were made by Pa. They have Trilabites, Octopus and large Parafoils. They also have some really great show kites, one which they got from an old friend, Terry Yunker. It is a GEORGEOUS 200 foot Chinese Dragon. This is a real show piece and Pa was very proud of it.

However it is not the kites we collect that makes people remember us. It is that we are a true friend to all we meet that prompts people to remember us, and that is what Pa did. We will all remember the kool old guy with all his kites, and the friendly smile he had for us all.

We will all miss him as we ask ourselves, where is he, where is the friend I miss so much?

With Love,

Dave Colbert

Tom Mason
April 23, 2006

In Memoriam: Tom Mason
Tom Mason, co-founder of GISKC, and TISKC before that, and creator of the Eastern League banners, passed away on April 23, 2006, leaving behind his wife Susan, and children Alex and Hilary. The following are some thoughts and memories about Tom from Eastern League members Roger Chewning, Jim Cosca, and Terry Murray:

Tom and Susan started competing at the SSKC in Miami in 1990. It was shortly after that we started the Golden Isles Stunt Kite Championships in Jekyll Island, GA. Tom always brought a sense of fun to the competition, even though he was a serious competitor. Back in those days we tracked judges by how many individual competitions they judged in the year. The only person to beat me on a consistent basis in the early 90’s was Tom Mason. He simply volunteered wherever he was needed. His event moved from Jekyll after a few years to Tybee Island where the tradition continued. That event has been the rock of southern Eastern League events, as the Masons have been there for so many others over the years. Tom invested in sound systems, and whatever equipment was needed to produce a festival. I loved the way he called me “upstate”, which I guess is Georgia for city slicker.

Tom will be missed not for everything he and Susan contributed over the years, but for his dedication to the sport and the fliers in it. You have only to look at Alex or Hilary to see what a fine person Tom was, and how he cared for the sport. I already miss his scavenger hunts and will always think of giant stacks of oysters at the banquet of the first GISKC.

Roger Chewning

I was deeply saddened to hear of Tom’s passing. I have known Tom since the late 1980s, when he first organized the Golden Isles festivals and began competing with Sue as Team WindSwept. Soon after, we saw their kids, Hilary and Alex, getting in on the fun. It has always been a pleasure to spend time with Tom and his whole family. They are what I would consider one of very few real kite families. Tom and his family have always been more than willing to lend a helping hand with whatever needs to been done to make a festival successful. We are lucky to have the likes of these folks among us. Tom was a great friend and a Stand-Up Guy who truly cared about kiting and all that it involves. We shall miss him dearly. I would like to have a kite fly for Tom sometime. Let’s do this.

Jim Cosca

You always had to smile when you were around Tom. He was many things: a great father who helped to raise two great kids, member of Team WindSwept, announcer, soundman, and most importantly, a passionate person who would easily share his experience and expertise. Tom was always willing to give advice, guidance, and feedback to fliers. In my case, Tom was honest and candid, and he did everything he could to help me improve my flying.

Tom was also a very, very funny man. He would sometimes floor you with an unexpected silly joke or pun. I hope that some of you where able to experience one of Tom’s “speaker checks.” On the kite field it was the most hilarious thing I ever heard. Tom would see someone on the field and ask that person, over the speaker, to help him do a sound check. While saying, “Check check, testing testing,” Tom had the ability to make every other word sound garbled or filled with static, and if you were the victim, you would be convinced that something was very wrong. So while you were trying to convey to him that a speaker had shorted out, he would wave to say thank you and pretend everything was fine. It was definitely one of those “you had to be there” moments, but it was pure genius that made many people scream with laughter.

The kiting community nationwide has lost a great friend. Our hearts go out to Susan, Hilary, Alex, and the entire Mason family.

Terry Murray

Susan Mason was kind enough to send a message for the Eastern League membership from the Mason family:


There is no way that I can express the gratitude I feel for all the kindness shown to us during this sorrowful time. We are reminded that we are not alone in our grief, since many of you also lost a good friend when Tom passed away. My heart goes out to you. Kiting was Tom’s passion for many years. Even after we no longer competed, the desire to be involved remained. The kiting community became our extended family, each of you contributing to our family to make us who we each are. We are a strong family. Tom is in good company with kiters who have left us, and I am sure that they have the “perfect wind” that we can only wish for.

With Love,
Susan, Hilary, and Alex

Dorothea Checkley
April 29, 2006

Many of the kiteflyers who were around in the early heady days of kiteflying and kitemaking in Seattle, remember the magnificent Checkley manor on Queen Anne Hill. I remember my first time there for the 1980 AKA convention. Walking into the curved driveway and through the huge front door, I was met with warmth by a most cordial hostess Dorothea Checkley. She greeted every guest and directed them towards the warmly lit dining room. Mingling among the guests I discovered I was in the midst of the most well known kitemakers and flyers of the time.

Dorothea and David’s home was filled with exotic kites and exotic people who stood around a huge table filled with gourmet dishes, northwest seafood and desserts from her Scandinavian heritage. Dorothea had prepared the glowing feast herself and it was impressive. Moreover, this was not an out of the ordinary event. Every time there was a kite function in Seattle Dorothea welcomed kiteflyers from all over the world into her home with comparable rounds of Smorgasbord tables. These were the first banquets of the American Kiteflyers Convention.

Dorothea was a more than a legendary hostess and cook she was an avid reader and loved rousing discussions of politics and finance at the dinners. She traveled around the world with her husband David Checkley, America’s first Ambassador of Kiting. She and David’s lead kiteflying tours of Japan and China and attended kite festivals around the world.
Through Dorothea and David’s efforts the whole kiting community has gained a unique understanding of the art and culture of kite making in China and Japan. David and Dorothea brought these wonderful kites to Seattle in the early 80’s, hosted Chinese and Japanese kite dignitaries at their home. Introducing us all to lifelong friends.

The wonderfully lavish dinners and social get-togethers are missed but not more than the gracious presence of Dorothea Checkley.

Remembrances can be made to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Kathy Goodwind

Richard W. (Sam) Huston

May 2, 2006

Sam passed away in Kent Washington at the age of 77 years young.
Sam had more energy that most of us will ever know. He was active in hiking, hunting, bird watching, gardening, traveling, kiting and kite making. Sam also did wood working and made those wonder line winders. He also was very active in his church, including the men’s breakfast. He collected food for the food bank. I can’t imagine what he did in his spare time?

Sam was the secretary of Fort Worden Kite Makers Board and also served on the curriculum board. He helped in the recruiting of teachers from all over the world. He also taught kitemaking classes at Fort Worden Conference, OKR, MAKR, MKS here in the states and with the White Horse Kite Club in England. He always had time to share ideas about kite making and flying or just to answer questions.

I know that the absence of Sam has and will affect all of us one time or another. I hope that we take his lessons and use them in our lives. This is a large empty space and it will take a lot to fill it. I personally don’t think it will ever be filled.


An island of difference
In a sea of same
Just by looking you will see
An ordinary man
Insecurity part of his nature
But no,
We know who he was
He was the one-
With all the stories
He was the one-with the color

He was the paper
Swaying in the wind
The globe-trotting,
Ukulele playing,
Just like the paper
The paper in the wind
Look out on a forgotten beach
Or some place unknown
And you can feel him
There in the hills and valleys
The mountains claim him
The seas he loves
All over
Just flying
Sometimes I just sit back
And smile
I know he’s there
I know forever
When and where I need him
He’ll be there and I know
He wants me to smile

Written by Kelly Huston, Sam’s granddaughter.

Thanks Kelly and thank you Sam. I think I’ll smile and know how fortunate I was to have known this man.

Marla Miller