Saint Paul resident Carol Bergquist grew up in Fargo, North Dakota, with her family treated like local celebrities. Her dad was Dewey Bergquist, the weatherman for WDAY-TV in Fargo. He was also a pilot.
“He soloed on my 7th birthday, and I remember being in the plane when he was taking lessons,” she says. “I thought, ‘This is just too fun.’ ” So 50 years after her father, Carol soloed in February 2014, and now has her private pilot certificate.
Of her interest in flying, she says, “It was not on my mind as I was growing up.” She married Larry McDonough six years ago, and says, “I didn’t realize it but he said, ‘You talk about [flying] all the time.’” So while perusing Facebook, Larry found the Fargo alumni page and discovered that an old friend and classmate of Carol’s, Loren Jones, was a flight instructor. “Larry finds him, surprises me with a discovery flight, and as soon as I got in the plane I thought, ‘This is good,’ ” she says.
Now, while she uses her license for simple day trips to Alexandria or Little Falls, every time she gets in the plane it brings memories of her father, who died in 1996. Memories like the first time he picked her up and put her on his lap and said, ‘Why don’t you drive?’ ” she recalls, adding, “I had no fear.” At the time, Carol was 7 or 8, and thought, “I’m ‘steering.’” Now, of course, she realizes that he was doing everything: “I just remember thinking, ‘Ha-ha-ha, see Dad, I can do this.’ ”
Her father was always taking photos while in the air, Carol says. He would come home, print them in their darkroom in the basement, and show the photos on his weather show.
Not surprisingly, flying “helps me feel connected to him,” Carol says. “He’s been gone a long time. It’s just like he’s right back here with me in the plane.”
And while she has the memories of her dad flying—like the time a duck crashed through his windshield (save some scrapes, he was fine; the duck was not), she’s been creating her own memories too, like renting a plane with her husband on a vacation to France.
“It was a beautiful day,” she recalls, and she went up with Larry and an instructor (U.S. licenses don't transfer to Europe) and the instructor gave her a route to look for castles. “He’s pointing out all these really interesting historic places, including the castle where Richard the Lionheart lived,” she says. “It was such a history lesson."
And it’s all thanks to her dad introducing her to flying. “I connect in a lot of ways with Dad,” she says. “He was a writer, I’m a writer during the day, he was a musician, I’m a musician. [Bergquist is a classical flute player at the Basilica of St. Mary and also plays at weddings and private events]. So I have a lot of connections, this was just one more.”
It’s a connection that will last as long as she’s healthy enough to fly, she says. “Every time I take off, it’s still a thrill.”