Dakota Conference communication director Jacquie Biloff talks with Ruth Chase about church, family and their airplane business.

Jacquie Biloff: How many years were you treasurer for the Mandan Adventist Church?

Ruth Chase: Probably 30 years. I am still an assistant and deposited church money this morning. I started out as an assistant treasurer back in the 80s and then I became the head treasurer. It’s just this last year that I have trained someone else. Now I don’t have to pay the bills anymore—that is the good part. I always took it seriously and worried if there wasn’t enough money to pay the bills. Today some people try to get all they can get and let tomorrow worry about tomorrow, but I like it when bills are paid.
Where did your expertise as a bookkeeper begin?

I was thrown into keeping the books for my husband’s business without any education. I learned by trial and error and with the help of accountants who would do our taxes. I got so I could do a good profit and loss statement.

Tell us about you and your husband’s business.

Bob was a pilot, did aircraft maintenance, was a crop duster and rebuilt airplanes. He and his brother Monroe, who sold and traded airplanes, owned Midway Flying Service out of Hebron, North Dakota. We always paid the tithe on our part of the business and God blessed us.
The city of Mandan, North Dakota asked us to become the managers for the Mandan airport. All that was there was a little city office. We built a shop and put up 10 T-hangers. My dad helped build those in 1962. To go there now you wouldn’t believe it is the same place. The planes are much bigger. The hangers were built for Super Cub-sized airplanes.
In the early ’70s, we started Mandan Air Service. In addition, we also had a salvage business with our son called B & K Aircraft Salvage. We would drive to an accident location, take the aircraft apart, load it onto our trailer and haul it home. We would work with the insurance companies. That was difficult, especially if you knew the people involved. We hauled in a lot of airplanes.
We rebuilt mainly Super Cubs. My grandson’s first word was “airplane.” I miss being around the airplanes. It was my life. If my son, or grandson, isn’t too busy, they will take me up for a ride.

What was your position in the business?

I did all the bookwork, cleaned the office, went on salvages, sewed fabric for the wings, rib stitched the fabric to the wings, and put on the N numbers. It was so nice when the regulations were changed from putting the numbers on the wings to putting them on the fuselage. The numbers were required to be painted on the bottom of one wing and on the top of the other wing so they could be seen if an aircraft was flying over or under you. They were large numbers. We had to measure precisely so they would be centered horizontally and vertically. The first one I did was red numbers on a white wing. I put them on backward and upside down. It took a long time to sand those off.

How many years were you in business?

We were married in 1956; Bob was spraying crops then. He helped rebuild a couple airplanes at the farm. When we moved to Mandan, Bob was the mechanic and Monroe was the salesman. We had planes lined up on the runway waiting for Bob to work on them because he was a meticulous mechanic. He maintained several doctors’ airplanes and he always cautioned them to be careful when they took off. Bob was a cautious man and treated flying with respect.
On Oct. 8, 1998, Bob was cleaning the windshield of an aircraft; it was our grandson’s birthday. He slipped off the tire, hit his head on the strut and then on the concrete. They did surgery but he did not fully recover. He died Nov. 2 from a blood clot. He had his 64th birthday in the hospital. We were just at the point to do some traveling. He was a very humble, faithful, dedicated man. He had been the head deacon at church for many years. The Lord knew he was ready to go.
We sent Signs of the Times to all our customers for many years. Bob had quite a ministry going besides all his airplane work. He would copy sermons and send tapes and books. After the accident, I had two businesses to dissolve. I moved and bought a house in town.
Our entire church was praying for me; it was such a blessing. When it came time to move, the whole church showed up and had me moved by noon. At the funeral, the church family fed over 450 people. My church is wonderful. I don’t know if I would have gotten through without them. That’s what church families are for. We are such a tight-knit family.

Were you raised as a Seventh-day Adventist?

My parents were Lutheran. However, my dad’s two brothers married Adventist ladies who worked with my parents until they were ready to be baptized. For some reason, something came up and my parents couldn’t be baptized the same day. However, my mother didn’t wait and was baptized. When she was baptized, I cried and cried. I thought they were trying to drown her. Dad became angry that Mom didn’t wait and took away the car so Mom couldn’t go to church. So a bachelor would come by and pick us up. Dad gave back the car. He always made sure we went to church, studied the lesson and sent us to academy.
Years later a pastor visited my dad and said, “Don’t you think it is time to give you heart to the Lord?”
“I was just waiting for someone to ask me,” Dad replied. After the baptism, Dad kept saying, “I did it—I finally did it.” The church always asked Dad to help with the work, but never asked about his salvation. So many times we take people for granted. We forget to ask them where their heart is.