Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Airplane Models Are His Flights of Fancy

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Airplane Models Are His Flights of Fancy

Article excerpt

Norman Amper and his wife, Esther, moved into the Lighthouse Point Village at Chapel Harbor over the summer. It didn't take long for them to make friends.

Mr. Amper is an affable jokester who is quick to strike up a conversation with his neighbors in a 134-unit retirement community in O'Hara.

He has quite the conversation starter.

For years, Mr. Amper, now 87, has assembled, painted and decaled various mail-order model airplane kits. The finished products hang from his workshop ceiling and wind blowing from three fans cause the planes to look as if they are floating.

"It's fun and it's productive,'' Mr. Amper said of his hobby. "You get so into it that you get lost."

The models range from versions of 1930s aircraft to present-day ones. Mr. Amper's favorites are the World War II models like the B-17 that is one of several dozen hanging from the ceiling, but will soon be a gift for another resident when Mr. Amper finishes a replacement.

Tony Iole, a 94-year-old former Allegheny County real estate appeals judge, was a radio operator during the second World War. His missions were in a B-17, the very model his friend plans on giving him.

"Oh, boy, that brings back memories," Mr. Iole said.

Over the years, Mr. Amper has completed nearly 100 models. Dozens hang from the ceiling while Mr. Amper works at his table making more.

The room and the planes have become a therapeutic spot for neighbors. It's not uncommon for the Ampers to get a knock on the door and a request to sit and watch.

Mrs. Amper is quick to offer a coffee or soft drink while her husband happily engages in conversation.

"I want them to leave with a big smile," he said.

Mr. Amper is a U.S. Army veteran who was stationed in Germany in the 1950s.

He recalled that he was always interested in flight and made models as a kid. As an adult he owned a closed-circuit security business for decades before selling it in 2005.

He also was an usher at Pittsburgh Penguins games and volunteered for 12 years at UPMC St. Margaret. But, in recent years, his balance has become an issue, so he sticks closer to home and his model planes.

Mrs. Amper, 83, is a retired real estate agent and former model. …

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