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California plane crash kills Whidbey couple

"A small group of islanders met at a private bar near Oak Harbor Thursday night to talk and tell stories about a couple of friends they never thought they'd lose.They were still in shock from learning that these long-time pals, local residents Bill and Janet Davids, died together in a plane crash in Mariposa County, Calif., on Valentine's Day.The Mariposa County Sheriff's Office reported that the couple crashed in their single-engine Cessna on Penon Blanco Mountain, just north of Coulterville. Sixty-seven-year-old Bill Davids was the pilot and 63-year-old Janet was the only passenger of the plane that took off from the Fresno/Yosemite airport on the way to Whidbey Island.Mariposa County Sheriff's Office Lt. Brian Muller said the weather had been extremely stormy with lots of wind and lots of rain on the day of the crash. The Federal Aviation Administration is still investigating the crash.On Whidbey Island, Don and Gail Stultz and Bud and Brenda Ackley met together to recount stories about the happy couple who both seemed nearly invincible. Bill was a retired firefighter. Friends always called him Doc after he stitched himself up after being seriously injured while alone out on a boat. He piloted his own little Cessna plane all over the place, flying friends to places like Friday Harbor for lunch on a whim. He was the kind of guy who could fix anything.While she was a kind-hearted, down-to-earth woman, Janet also had a streak of nonchalant adventure in her. She was in her 60s when she decided at the spur of the moment one afternoon to sky dive. And she did it, to the amazement of her friends.It was no big deal for them to do anything, Brenda Ackley said.He always got himself out of a bad situation, Don Stultz said.According to their friends, the Davids had homes in both Long Beach, Calif. and on Dugualla Bay in North Whidbey for the last five years or so, but they had been moving everything to make Whidbey a permanent home. Ironically, the flight back to Whidbey Monday was supposed to be the last flight of the move.The Stultz and Ackleys said that friendships on the island are very tight, and many of the friends also knew each other in California.Don Stultz said he's known Bill since they started working together at the Pasadena Fire Department in 1961. Bill became a fire captain in 1970.After the Stultzes moved to Whidbey Island in 1989, they started an exodus of California firefighters. First, close friends Dick - also a fire captain - and Mavis Parillo moved up. Then the Davids visited and fell in love with the area and the people, and decided to do the same.The friends say that the couple were known by many people across the island and will be sorely missed.Bill, they said, will be remembered as a man who could build or fix anything and was always willing to tackle a project. He would just show up to help when he knew a friend had work to do. He loved to go crabbing and flying. He loved to do everything, Bud Ackley said.Janet was generous and an absolute sweetheart, Don Stultz said. She was a big supporter and contributed generously to the Long Beach Symphony. She was looking forward to getting involved with the Whidbey Playhouse and other artistic endeavors on the island.The couple's two brothers, their closest relatives, are handling the memorial service in California, but details haven't been finalized. On the island, their friends are planning a Friendship Memorial for Thursday, Feb. 24.We all need a little closure, Brenda Ackley said.Memorial plannedFriends of Bill and Janet Davids, who died in a plane crash Feb. 14, have planned a Friendship Memorial for Thursday, Feb 24, at 5:30 p.m. The small ceremony and get-together will be at Ackley Lane, off of Scenic Heights Road. Friends are welcome to attend. For information call Bud and Brenda Ackley at 679-8363."

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