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Published: Monday, 10/1/2012

Gloria Calhoun, 1924-2012: Spanish teacher helped run flight school

BY JIM SIELICKI
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TECUMSEH, Mich. — Gloria Calhoun, a native of Mexico who moved with her husband after World War II to southeast Michigan, where she heLped him operate a flight school and she taught Spanish language and literature to high school and college students in Tecumseh and Ann Arbor, died Wednesday in Dallas.

Mrs. Calhoun, 88, who lived in Presbyterian Village North in Dallas, suffered dementia, said her daughter, Cindy Calhoun.

Mrs. Calhoun met her husband, John Leslie Calhoun, in Laredo, Texas, where he was an Army Air Corps flight instructor. She was working for her father, a Mexican customs official on the other side of the border.

The former Gloria Davila was taking English language instructions when the two met in a restaurant.

Their daughter said her father used the pickup line of offering to teach his wife-to-be how to speak English.

The couple married in Mexico City on Sept. 2, 1946, and moved to a farm southeast of Tecumseh, where Mr. Calhoun grew up.

“It was a big step for both of them,” their daughter said. “She had left her country and moved to cold country and he married someone outside of his religion and culture.”

Mrs. Calhoun, who was born on March 10, 1924, was raised Catholic; he was Presbyterian.

She embraced his religion and became a member of the Raisin Presbyterian Church in Britton. She served many years as a ruling elder.

Back in Michigan, Mr. Calhoun transferred his wartime skills into a civilian occupation, giving flying lessons to students, many of whom used the GI Bill, their daughter said.

Mr. Calhoun initially taught at Al Meyers Airport in Tecumseh, but later bought land between Britton and Tecumseh to build an airport and to operate the Calhoun School of Aviation, their son John said.

The couple named the 4,400-foot air strip Calhoun International Airport, in a humorous nod to Mrs. Calhoun’s heritage.

Mrs. Calhoun kept the books, scheduled training flights, and ran the business while her husband taught, John Calhoun said.

Jim Merrillatt, who bought the airport on Rogers Road, has since expanded the operation, John Calhoun said.

Mrs. Calhoun received her bachelor’s degree in philosophy from what was then Siena Heights College in 1964 and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Michigan in 1968.

She taught Spanish in the Tecumseh public school district beginning in 1964 and four years later at Ann Arbor Pioneer High School. She taught Spanish literature at the University of Michigan and later at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Mrs. Calhoun loved her students. Her lessons would include important values she thought students should have as well, her daughter said. “She didn’t believe that any kid was bad,” her daughter said.

She retired from the Texas position in 2007 and moved back to Michigan. After her health began to fail, she returned to Dallas to be close to her daughter.

She used her Spanish teaching skills as a consultant for Princeton University’s advanced placement committee, which designs tests for high school students, for 20 years, her daughter said.

Her husband died in 1997.

Mrs. Calhoun is survived by her daughter, Cindy Calhoun; son John Charles Calhoun, three grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

Sparkman Funeral Home, Dallas, handled the arrangements. The family plans a celebration of her life in Tecumseh in the spring.

Tributes are suggested to Raisin Presbyterian Church, in care of John Calhoun, 440 Oakwood, Clarklake, Mich. 49234.



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