Karen Barbera wasn't always sure the tall tales she'd heard about her father were true.
When she started researching Toledoan Richard Schreder's life and involvement in the sport of soaring, though, she soon found the stories were not only true but that her father had left a significant mark on aviation history. So significant, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum recently accepted Mr. Schreder's personal collection for its archives.
Getting that news was a "wow" moment for Mr. Schreder's widow, Angie, who lives in Bryan, where the Schreders moved from Toledo in 1963.
"I'm just honored that they would want to include that in their collection," Mrs. Schreder, 74, said.
"Of course now I think we should have been better historians. For us, it was our everyday life. It didn't seem that special. We didn't think about keeping a lot of things - records and photographs. We just lived the everyday," she said.
Still, several hundred items belonging to the legendary glider pilot and designer are slated to be shipped to the Air and Space Museum in Washington later this year.
Meticulous log books, hand-drawn glider designs, photographs, and newspaper articles are among the items that will become part of the museum's archives where researchers will be able to access the materials, said Russell Lee, a curator at the museum.
Some of the items, like the paperwork Mr. Schreder received when he set three world records in soaring in 1959, are valuable learning tools, Mr. Lee said.
"That's good stuff to have because it really explains in detail the conditions under which the record was set," he said. "Those things are pretty detailed."
Artifacts like the Distinguished Flying Cross Mr. Schreder was awarded for sinking a German U-boat as a Navy pilot in 1942 will be stored for use in future exhibits.
"This is just great stuff," Mr. Lee said, adding that even though the museum accepts only about 10 percent of the items offered to it in a given year, it wasn't hard to convince his colleagues that the Schreder collection belonged at the Smithsonian. "He's very well-known to anybody who delves into the history of soaring."
Denise Layton, chief administrative officer of the Soaring Society of America in Hobbs, N.M., said Mr. Schreder is considered a pioneer in the sport, and his legend has not died.
"He still has a lot of sailplanes flying," she said. "These were planes that he built and sold They are older planes, but you know they were built very well and they're still in good shape and we still have a bunch of them out there."
Ms. Barbera said she contacted the Smithsonian in 2006 to see if the museum would want the only glider that her father built that the family still had in its possession. Mr. Lee said the museum declined that offer because it was one of his later models and had not been flown very frequently.
Ms. Barbera said the glider was subsequently donated to the U.S. Southwest Soaring Museum in New Mexico. And, despite the Smithsonian's rejection of her father's glider, the museum was quite interested in his personal papers and other memorabilia.
Ms. Layton was impressed to learn of the museum's decision. She knew Mr. Schreder for many of the 30-plus years he was on the Soaring Society of America's board of directors.
"It's a great tribute that they're interested in preserving his name," she said.
Ms. Barbera was intent on doing just that when she self-published a book about his life and accomplishments before he died at age 86 in 2002. She said it was a joy to interview her father, research his logbooks and other records, and contact his old friends from the Navy and his soaring days.
"I really got a different appreciation for my father and his contribution to the sport," she said.
Mr. Schreder, who earned an engineering degree from the University of Toledo before joining the Navy, won three national soaring championships, set three world records, and represented the United States in three international competitions. It was at one of those competitions in Cologne, Germany that one of his tall - but true - tales sprang.
In 1960, Mr. Schreder's sailplane glided behind the Iron Curtain into East Germany. He was detained by armed soldiers until his captors checked out his story and released him the next day.
When he returned home, he was invited to appear on the television show, To Tell The Truth, where his wife recalled, "He fooled all the panelists."
No one on the show thought the quiet, unassuming man from northwest Ohio was the real Dick Schreder.
The Smithsonian's Mr. Lee called him a "regular but remarkable" man.
Unlike most glider pilots, Mr. Schreder designed his own sailplanes and eventually manufactured sailplane kits to make the expensive sport more accessible to the public. His designs were solid and high-performing.
"That's just really unheard of," Mr. Lee said. "It astounds me that a guy with so little formal training and virtually no experience in the industry as an aircraft designer could go in with this design on his own and market it and be so successful. This is just quite a story."
Mrs. Schreder could not name one accomplishment for which her husband was most proud.
"He at one time made the comment to me, 'I have been everywhere I wanted to go and done everything I wanted to do and if I died today, I would die happy,'" she recalled.
" He loved soaring, in fact he loved any kind of flying. Getting into the Navy air program was phenomenal for him," she said. "All of his Navy experiences he enjoyed. I think he just enjoyed life in general."
She said she thinks he would be honored to know of the Smithsonian's interest.
Ms. Barbera said even though her father wasn't one to seek publicity, she feels a certain need to secure his place in history.
"He didn't do any of what he did because he wanted the recognition," she said. "I want it for him somehow."
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