Roland “Rocky” Gannon, 87, took his first plane rides at the old Ocean City Airport, then at 18th Street and Bay Avenue. When a sightseeing plane prepared to leave with an unoccupied seat, he’d ask to be taken along, and often got a free ride.

“I was about nine years old,” he said. “My mom never knew.”

But his mother, already a widow, did sign the papers allowing him to enter pilot training at age 17, he said. He never finished his junior year at Ocean City High School and said he still feels bad for having to cancel his prom date. But he’d been called to Army Air Forces training, where he ultimately learned to fly the B-17 Flying Fortress and B-29 Superfortress.

“I was an aircraft commander of a B-17 bomber at age 19, and had never learned to drive a car,” Gannon said.

For 37 years he stayed in the military. After combat missions in World War II, he was stationed in Japan during occupation, and became an air traffic controller. He returned to combat flying during the Korean conflict, flew transport flights in the Belgian Congo, and 387 combat missions during the Vietnam War.

After the Air Force, he became an international aviation consultant, then director of an airport in South Carolina, retiring in 1993. He and wife Roberta have a home near today’s Ocean City Municipal Airport, at 26th Street and Bay Avenue.

Gannon, an inductee in the South Carolina Aviation Hall of Fame, recently spoke about his career at the Ocean City Historical Museum. He will talk to students at Ocean City High School for the first time in September.

Gardening excellence

Lots of people have noticed incredible flowers in the landscaping around Cape Regional Medical Center, a representative said. It’s all due to groundskeeper Gregg Aprill, of Cape May Court House.

He and wife, Missy, own Leaming’s Run Gardens, on Route 9 in Cape May Court House, the largest annual garden open to the public in the nation. Its 25 themed gardens on 50 acres were started by his parents Jack and Emily Aprill in 1978.

Gregg Aprill has been CRMC groundskeeper since October, 2011, and received the Service Excellence of the Month award for June.

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