Conyers lost a piece of history and a true American hero when Col. Edward G. Pickett passed away in February.
Pickett, 94, was the sole survivor of a horrendous plane crash during World War II that broke his body at the time but left him with a steadfast faith that would see him through to his last days.
Charles Ross, who had served in Kiwanis clubs with Pickett — both had been presidents of their respective clubs — sat with Pickett towards the end of his life on Sundays while Pickett’s wife Donna went to church. "He told me he’s ready to leave this house and go to God’s house," said Ross.
On Sept. 3, 1943, on a stateside flight to Alaska to deliver an engine, the plane commanded by then-Captain Pickett exploded in the sky, killing the five other crew members and one stowaway onboard the plane. Pickett, who was of German descent but adopted as a young child, later said sabotage by German-Americans was probably the cause of the explosion.
"When he was blown out of the plane, he prayed, ‘Dear God, not now. Not now,’" said Ross. "He believed he had a meeting with the Lord, and the Lord spared his life so he could be of service to others."
Miraculously, Pickett’s parachute opened, even though he couldn’t open it because his arm, back, and neck were broken. He landed in the redwood forests, and walked, crawled and dragged himself away from brush fires started by the burning plane towards a light he saw in the sky. "He figured God had put that light there to guide him."
He was eventually found floating in a river and spent the next year and a half recovering and was promoted to colonel before he retired.
His first wife, Connie, had been told he was dead, since there were only supposed to be six bodies on the plane.
Pickett’s experiences gave him the confidence to carry out almost anything despite life’s hardships. He was a businessman for decades, owning an oil and gas company in Ellicott City, Md., until a flood wiped away the entire business. He and his wife moved to Conyers after that.
Ross recalled Pickett could go in and talk with ease with presidents and paupers. "That’s just the way he was," said Ross. "He always had a high opinion of himself and his ability."
"He was very determined," said Donna Pickett. "You never tried to dissuade him." But he also knew how to get things done, she said.
Pickett’s life was marked by service in one form or other. He was a member of the American Legion Post 77, president of the Rockdale Kiwanis Club, and member of First United Methodist Church of Conyers, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Shriners in Maryland.
He also had an enduring love of the flag and would order boxes of flags by the hundreds and give them out to everyone, said Donna. "We’d be at a restaurant and he’d go up and interrupt the conversation to give them a flag. He even did that in hospice."
In honor of Col. Edward Pickett, his service and his love of the American flag, the Conyers Kiwanis Club presented the Golden Corral restaurant, where they meet on Mondays, with an American flag and stand.