Tuskegee Airman’s life, love for Lake Michigan honored in final wish

CHICAGO — One of the remaining local Tuskegee Airmen had a final wish as his health began to decline.

Jack Lyle lived an extraordinary life worth honoring in every way but his family wasn’t able to grant him his final wish, until Thursday.

"He was a hero,” his wife Eunice said. “When people said you can't do this, it just made him stronger. He would say, ‘Watch my smoke.’”

Lieutenant Lyle was many things; a husband, father, author, and sailor. But unless you asked, you would never know he was one of the few men who made history back in 1941.

"There could be a million people around but you would never know he was a Tuskegee Airman. He would never mention it,” Eunice said.

Years later, Lyle turned his attention from the blue sky to the water and spent his days sailing and sitting on a bench overlooking Lake Michigan. A bench he used so much, Jackson Park Yacht Club put his name on it.

At 98-years-old, he had outlived every fellow Tuskegee pilot he knew until his own health took a turn for the worse.

"I  asked what his last wish would be,” Seasons Hospice and palliative care consultant Katie Andler said. "His wife, Eunice said he would want to see Lake Michigan one more time."

His hospice care team arranged for an ambulance to bring him there later that week.

But Lyle passed two days later and never made it to that bench overlooking the lake.

"It killed me that we were not able to fulfill that wish,” Eunice said.

But Friday, that wish was finally granted.

The Seasons Hospice team arranged for a special ceremony at Lyle’s bench in his honor.

"He's here,” Eunice said. “Always in my heart and on my mind."

On Memorial Day, Lt. Lyle’s family will take his sailboat out one last time to spread his ashes in Lake Michigan and forever connect this hero with the open sky and water he loved so much.

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