Keith Newcomer loved to fly and surf, was rarely found wearing shoes or long pants and never found a garage sale he didn't like.
Friends, family and fellow aviators shared their memories of Newcomer's quirky traits at the Covington Municipal Airport Saturday, as they honored the pilot and his son, who died in an Oct. 16 plane crash near the Monticello airport.
But what the assembled crowd remembered most clearly was how Keith converted every stranger into a friend, how he always lent a helping hand, lived life on his terms and loved his son, Christopher, more than anything else.
Keith owned a furniture store in Arcata, Calif., but he spent much of his time in Statham, Ga. with his 7-year-old son. The two could often be found at the Monticello and Covington airports, lounging at the hangar, working on airplanes or chatting with their pilot brethren.
The two were also together for their final flight. They took off from Garvey Airfield in Monticello on Oct. 16 and crashed shortly after in a field near the end of the runway; both were killed, and the plane caught fire and was destroyed. The cause of the crash is still being determined by federal aviation officials.
Keith was a member of the Covington chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association, a nationwide group of pilots who build their own planes. Local chapter chairman Emory Geiger said these builders follow strict Federal Aviation Administration guidelines and must pass numerous inspections.
"I'm far more comfortable riding in my experimental aircraft than I am in my production aircraft," Geiger said. "I would have ridden in Keith's aircraft that day and I would ride in it today."
Just like its owner, Keith's plane stood out from among the crowd.
"I see this bright yellow airplane with flowers on it roll up, and here come this guy with flip-flops. I thought ‘He's not from around here,'" said fellow pilot Brian Wallace in a southern accent, bringing laughs to the crowd that had assembled in Keith's Covington hangar.
Keith's brother, Steve Newcomer, thanked the around 100-person strong crowd for coming, as he fought back tears.
"Keith Lee Newcomer and Christopher Lee Newcomer are flying side by side forever," Steve said.