Rob Kells passed away on August 9th, 2008 after battling prostate cancer for nearly two years. Rob was our friend and business partner for more than thirty years, and our sense of loss at his passing is inexpressible. For those of you who knew Rob personally, we know you will understand, and we know that you share our loss.
It has been two years since Rob passed away. Just to let everyone know… His daughters are doing great! They all got together for lunch today, just to be with one another for support. Cara is married to a great guy named Demetri with an almost one year year old baby girl named Dina and she and her little family are happy, healthy and doing great. Yes, Rob would have been a Grandpa! Maddie got married in January to her awesome husband Paul. Rob would have had the time of his life at their wedding. The youngest Amy is off to Flagstaff (NAU) for college in a few weeks. Wow.. how life just moves on. Rob would have been very proud of his girls right now and how they have helped eachother through a pretty up and down rollercoaster ride of emotions over these past two years! Thank you for letting me post this update! His true legacy lives strong in his children and grandchild!
– Cathy Rusk (formery Kells)
Rob was the first and only person I ever saw loop a hang glider. It was at a small hill in the finger lakes of New York, and everyone was doing sled runs to a target. It was about noon and Rob hooked a thermal and went up and up. I said “what is he doing?” to a friend nearby. Myh friend said: “that’s Rob Kells – I think he’s going to do a loop.” Rob didn’t just do one loop, he did three or four. What a guy. I am so glad he had a strong Christian witness – the world needs more people like him. I never got to meet him personally, but I hope to fly with him out thru the stars- oh yeah! I’ve pretty much retired from flying, but feel fortunate to have been part of a sport that had people like Rob Kells in it.
– Gale Boocks
Rob taught me to wear my seat belt. He came to Chattanooga in the early 80s in his red Z for a demo days event. When ever I got in with him, he would always say buckle up, I don’t want you in my lap if I have to do any fancy driving. And he meant it too. One evening we were pulling into a parking lot somewhere and he spotted an open space. He gunned it and just as he came even with the space, he kicked the rear end around to line up perfectly and pulled in. As we exited the car a wuffo approached and asked “Did you do that on purpose?” Rob didn’t miss a beat, he said “Of course, you don’t want to be doing stuff like that by accident.” With that great grin he had. To this day, I am uncomfortable without a seat belt on in a car and think about him every time I buckle up. I also catch myself still using Robisms as Paulie called them.
– Tom Phillips
There were so many of us who grew up through hang gliding over the years as teenagers. I remember the first time I met Rob in the 70’s, and being a female pilot, my first impression was “here we go again another cocky pilot”,; but over time we all matured through the sport, and went our different direction were ever the wind blew us or cloud street took us…I ended up in Hawaii, and miss all my big brothers and sisters of hang gliding that I met through this great sport..I wish all those that are still around peace and to those who have gotten their wings “a hu hou Kakou” til we meet again……Aloha Eileen
– Eileen Adames-Debauche
I run a business selling power hand tools, with after the sale support and service. I am also a hang glider pilot and have met Rob a few times at Wills Wing either picking up a new glider or having an old one repaired. I have modeled my sales business after ‘Rob’s Way’ – treating all customers as a friend and going out of my way for each and every one of them. Rob was a person that I said to myself would be nice to ‘get to know’ if only circumstances were different. As you can see, Rob made an indelible impression on me with my business AND in my life. I, too, shall never forget him. Thanks Rob.
– Jim Shaw
As we mark the one year anniversary of the loss of Rob Kells, our friend and business partner for more than 30 years, we’d like to take a moment to reflect, to say thank you, and to share some thoughts with you on where we are, and where we’re headed. First, we’d like to thank all of you for the support you extended to Rob during his nearly two year battle with his illness. Your thoughts, your prayers, your phone calls and emails, meant a great deal to him, and to us. And we’d like to thank you for the support you have shown to Wills Wing, both during Rob’s illness and since his passing. In his position as president, and head of sales at Wills Wing, Rob was the most visible “face” of the company, and his natural and persistent inclination to treat each customer as a personal friend was a big part of how Wills Wing pilots felt about their relationship to the company. We know that many of you were concerned about what would happen to Wills Wing without Rob’s presence. At the same time, most of us learned early on in our participation in hang gliding that we could lose a close friend at any time, and that life does go on, however hard it may be to imagine that it will. And Wills Wing has, and will go on. We are fully committed to the future, and to moving forward. Steve Pearson has assumed the lion’s share of Rob’s responsibilities for conducting demo days, and we have already held six successful demo events thus far in 2009. Steve, Mike and Linda have picked up the remainder of Rob’s administrative and customer support functions, and each of the test pilots are flying a few extra gliders a month to make up for the ones Rob can no longer fly. We saw a significant downturn in sales that began when the worst of the financial crisis hit early in 2008, but that decline bottomed out and began to recover early in this year, and we’ve seen higher sales levels than last year in each of the last four months. We’ve kept our delivery times reasonably low this year, we’ve enjoyed some significant successes with the T2’s and T2C’s, and the company is on solid footing in all respects. In all, we are re-dedicated to being the best company we can be; to designing and building the best gliders, to providing the best service of which we are capable, and to treating each of our customers as a friend. And we are fully confident that, with your continued support, we’ll succeed at that. We won’t forget Rob. We acknowledged his memory with a brief program during our Wallaby event this spring. The USHPA has created a special award in his memory. James Tindle ran the first annual Rob Kells Memorial Competition this past spring. We will remember Rob every time we get together with old friends to celebrate hang gliding, and every time we make new friends in the same pursuit. And we’ll go on. And we thank you all for being a part of it. Sincerely,
– Mike and Linda Meier, and Steve Pearson
Tonight I was searching the web to find details of our family friend, Jan Cameron, who passed away this morning from cancer. This time on the web has led me down the hangliding path – which I had not been in many years, since my brother Chris Bulger passed away in 1985. I am very sad to learn of Rob Kell’s passing. He was one of my idols and I always enjoyed seeing him at competitions or when he visited Chris in the Pacific Northwest. Now our brothers are flying again in heaven!
– Michelle Diaz (Shelly Bulger)
Over the years I have had the opportunity to talk to Rob by phone and in person a number of times. He was always upbeat…but focused. Which I am sure he brought to this battle too. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005, and I couldn’t agree more with Rob’s statement to get yourself checked annually. Guys done tend to talk about health items, unless it is some type of a “badge of honor”, but we need to talk about this cancer more. Women have done an incredible job with breast cancer and we must do the same about prostate cancer. Warm breezes, Rob.
– Pat Caulfield
Dear Rob, only the good die young. May your last Wings lift you forevermore. Manfred
– Manfred Boehm / Fliegerboehm, Germany
It has been many months since I’d last spoke with Rob. I’m so sad to hear he has passed. I met Rob many years ago when his daughter, Maddie and my son Adrien were in first grade together. We were on a fieldtrip and I remember this guy in a red shirt who kept making reference to soaring birds in the park. He kept taking the attention of the kids away from the tour guide. But he had such enthusiasm and all the kids were asking questions, so the tour guide just let it slide. I was a paraglider pilot and noticed his Wills Wing shirt so we bonded right away. He made me happy every time I would see him. . for many years thereafter. I had some special moments with him and I think of him from time to time. His strength, kindness and peace will forever reside in my heart.
– Monica Edwards
Rob came to Phoenix in 1985 with some new HPs. It was one of those really nice looking days and we went up the hill. We took off into soarable air and hooked one in the bowl. Rob and I thermaled eyeball to eyeball all the way to about 7000′. He was determined to prove the superiority of the new HP. I was bent on defending the honor of the Seedwings icon. After we landed Rob said “You thermal that thing real well”. After all these years I will never forget that compliment from one of the best pilots in the sport. Rob was smart, cool headed and always fun to talk to. I have Wills hats all over my garage from all the demos he has let me fly. Perhaps his greatest legacy is his part in former and current excellent Wills gliders.
– Dave Smith
I stopped at Wills Wing in September of 1977 on a cross country trip. I met Mrs. Wills and Rob along with everyone who worked at Wills Wing. Rob asked me to stay with him for the week at his apartment. That week I filmed him at different sites because he was in the process of doing certs on all of the Wills Wing gliders. We flew at the Big Black Meet and at lots of other sites that week. I had films of Bob Wills with me that I showed him and everyone at Wills Wing. Mrs. Wills told Bob to find me a Wills Wing glider so I could try one. One Friday night Bob took me to a 3800 ft site and we flew together 4 miles to the landing area. He was the best that I ever flew with in my four years of hang gliding. I’ll always remember him.
– JIM BEST
I remember the day I first met Rob Kells, he was one of the most energized and friendly people I had encountered. Rob had just joined Wills Wing Inc. and was a breath of fresh air for the company and for all of us in the sport. To say it simply in a word, he was “Unique.” That was over thirty years ago, and the impression “he” made during our first encounter is as vivid and clear now, as if it happened yesterday. Over the years he never altered from this heading…truly amazing… It is hard not admire such a talented and influential man as he was, and on so many levels. Rob was truly a model of wholesome integrity and vivacious spirit. My heart is deeply saddened with the news of his passing… Rob will always live in our memories…
– Chris D. Perkins
It’s been years since I last spoke to Rob, however his charisma and exuberance of life has always stayed near to my heart. As a former employee during the Raven/Harrier years I got to know the Wills family very close. I’m sure if heaven has hang gliders, Rob is diving through the clouds showing off for the Big Guy in the sky. My heart goes out to his family, friends, Steve, Mike, Linda and the rest of the Wills gang.
– Jim “Galdarn” Gaulden
At the time of Rob’s passing I was absent from the hang gliding community for a couple of months because of some serious issues of my own. When I was back in the “circle” I was somewhat shocked of Rob’s passing . Especially after speaking with him several times earlier this year. Rob kept his spark. Rob kept his enthusiasm for the sport right to the end. But even more importantly I did find some peace in all this. Rob had his own quiet faith and knew his creator. I know that his journey has just taken the next step to eternity. Be free Rob. Until we meet again.
– Rik Bouwmeester
My deepest condolences and sympathies to Rob, family, and extended family. I saw him last at Morningside back in the ’90’s. I’d not been in the air in a long while after a bad wilderness ditch-job in Maine, and he Peghiny and Nicolay got all over me with unbridled enthusiasm. Back in the 70’s we were doing the competition circuit and would hook up occassionally. A consummate gentleman who lived for his craft.
– Kevin Weatherbee, Maine and Virgin Islands
I looked up the Wills Wing site in early September and was stunned to hear of Rob’s death. I had flown with Rob, Bob Wills, and many of the Wills’ friends and employees before Bob’s death. I was offered a sailmaker job starting in Sep. 1977, and worked through that uncertain period where Wills Wing finances were in the red, and their future in doubt. It was during this period that Rob’s positive attitude and courage did wonders to keep Wills Wing afloat. Employees kept the faith, and dealers were encouraged to believe the company would survive. We built what seemed like hundreds of SST inventory sails in faith they would sell – and they did. I remember Rob as an excellent boss and supervisor, along with Steve, Mike, and Linda. They were tops. Rob was around when I made some of my most memorable flights on my trusty old “California 90” SST, as he called it. But mainly I will remember Rob as a generous and helpful man, and probably the most optimistic person I’ve ever met.
– Dan Johnson
It’s been a while since Rob left us behind, but only minutes have passed since I learned the news. I’m in LA on business, and decided that since I had some time free this afternoon, I’d give Rob a call a perhaps pay him a visit if he was feeling up to it. It was when I went to the Wills web site for the phone number that I learned of Rob’s passing. I am stunned. I’ve known Rob for 29 years, back to a time when I owned Manta and Seagull wings. Then, I was working at Chandelle San Francisco as an instructor, and test-flying and tuning customer gliders. I had the opportunity to fly everything out there, from Electra-Flyer, Eipper Formance, Bennett, Sunbird, Seedwings, Hyster, Stratus, Moyes, Flight Designs …The day I demoed Rob’s Omni for the first time, I was blown away. Not just by the glider, but by the man I had met. Suffice to say that for the last 29 years, I’ve owned only Wills gliders, starting with the Raven that took me to the 1980 Nationals. That kind of customer loyally is engendered by a connection with people… not the products they produce. Rob was always amazingly supportive of those of us who shared his passion for aero and flying in general, and whether at Grouse or Telluride, Ellensville or Dunlap, when Rob was around, he made you feel like you were Wills’ most important customer-pilot. I remember in ’81 at Grouse, the year after Rob won the Championship, I was flying my Harrier in a one-on-one match against some sky-god (Mark Bennett or Chris Bulger I think) holding my own against a superior double surface glider. After I landed, Rob paid me the biggest complement I could image: He said “I watched you work that lift back up to launch, and for a minute, I though I was looking at myself”. With that handed me a new Wills gear bag that I have kept to this day. At the ‘82 Nationals, Rob narrated a segment for a local cable station featuring Ron Young and I doing an aero demonstration between competition rounds. Rob always kept his promises, and several weeks later, I received the VHS cassette in the mail from Rob for my collection. More than I expected. In Ellensville, at the 1980 Nat’s, after the better part of a week of sled-runs and competing against Comets in my Raven, I was in like 23rd place, and totally pissed about my position. On the final day, the weather turned on, and I was ready to blow off the race and just FLY. I told Rob of my plans, and he convinced me to stick it out, suggesting that I might regret the decision to bail after working so hard to qualify. He was right…. Dave Ledford totally waxed me, but I know I flew my best. I ran in to Rob at Wallaby a few years back, totally unprepared to fly. Before I knew it, Rob had handed me his personal harness, set me up with his vario, a glider and tow, and I didn’t even ask. What a guy! After 38 years in the sport, I probably have one more glider left in me. For a while, I was considering a Laminar, but after visiting the shop earlier this year and spending some time with Mike, Linda, Rob and Steve, I know that it will be a T2 or whatever they’re building at the time. It’s not just about the glider… it’s about the people who build them. Thanks Rob for all the great memories. You put up one hell of a fight. You got me to have my PSA checked. May your eternal flight be downwind. Tom Low September 24, 2008
– Tom Low
To Rob’s family and to the Wills Wing family, I send my deepest condolences for your loss. This news knocked the wind out of me. Rob was a sky god to me. I remember showing up in Elsinore in 1980 and meeting Rob for the first time in the LZ. I thought I had really made the big time to have finally met and spoken to Rob Kells. I remember writing back to my old room mates and flying friends back in Colorado to let them know I had been in the midst of a true hang gliding celebrity, a sky god. I also remember Rob being very gracious with his time. We had the beginnings of a fledgling club in Elsinore in the early 80’s. I had asked Rob to come and give a presentation to the club. Not only did he give a great presentation he also brought a movie to show us. He really made the meeting one to enjoy and gave selfishlessly of his time to see that we had a good time. One last thought I’ve had that I thought you might enjoy. I have this vision of Rob and our Creator mulling over a new design for the Angels wings. I can just see Rob pointing out new design features and then demonstrating some new flight skills to the Creator. Well Rob the next flight I have will be in your honor. I’m sure you have your new permanent wings now… have a pair ready for me when I see you there. Smooth Lift Mate! Hang Dad
– Loren E. Culp – Red Lodge, Montana
I met Rob in college; about a half dozen of us formed a fast friendship in our freshmen year at a small school in upstate New York. We lived in close proximity – on the same floor of a dorm. Rob and his childhood friend (Lee Geiger – aka Chili) both attended this school and by some twist of fate landed in the same dorm opposite one another. My most enduring memory of Rob is his friendship with Chili; they were inseparable. We were children, beginning our journey to adulthood. But, all the fine qualities that the adult version of Rob used to later build a business and a larger community – were in evidence and abundantly shared – his smile, generosity, optimism and bravery. But it was his ability to connect that was central to Rob’s impact. Rob was my friend – but Chili was Rob’s best friend. I last saw Rob and Chili during the fall/winter of 1976. They came to town for a quick visit – to lighten my day with harrowing stories about competitive trick skiing and to share a Heineken beer (or two). I knew Rob was destined for great things. Over the years I thought of Rob and this week I impulsively ‘googled’ his name, and ended up here. I was right, Rob was destined for greatness … and my world was brighter for the short time we spent together many years ago. And that is my second-most enduring memory of Rob.
– Bob Meade
The sport of soaring lost two Greats this summer with the passing of Rob Kells and Dick Johnson on July 23, 2008. Both shared the same love of soaring, the same understated accomplishments and the same generous outreach to all people. I had the privilege and honor of personally knowing both and many spent many hours flying with them. Both will be missed sorely by the sport. But, the sport is better off today because they were a part of it. I have no doubt that they are talking about flying right now.
– Gerry Kiefer
It’s been a long time since I flew hang gliders, but every so often I check the website to see how my old buddies at Wills Wing are doing. I was stunned and saddened to see that Rob has passed away. I didn’t know Rob as well as Mike or Steve, but I remember seeing Rob at Salt Creek in the early 80s, shortly after I had stopped flying hang gliders. He took me up for a tandem flight, which was a very memorable flight for me. Mainly because I didn’t even ask, he just offered to take me up. That was Rob. Rob will probably be remembered by most as one of the all-time great hang glider pilots. After reading these posts, he was clearly much, much more to those who knew and loved him most.
– Bob Currie
SO HERE’S THE DEAL …
I slept in Rob Kells’ bed before I even met the man!
AND HERE’S THE EXPLANATION …
In 1982 I was in the midst of getting involved with my hang gliding instructor, Erik Fair. Rob had just bought a new water bed and he asked Erik if we’d like to try it. We did but that’s another story.
Back to thoughts about Rob …
In subsequent years I got to know he was a guy with great taste: in the foods he ate, the wines and beers he drank, the clothes he wore, the motorcycles and cars he drove on the road, the gliders and planes he flew in the air.
More importantly he had great taste in his career choice. Who hasn’t dreamed of combining a favorite sport with earning a living? And he used that same excellent taste in choosing his business partners.
Rob was always generous with praise (for a job well done or a great suggestion for improving efficiency) and compliments (on Linda’s most recent killer black dress). He always tried to share positive comments he received with others he felt at least partially responsible. When congratulated for Wills Wing’s success, he was quick to point to his partners; when complimented on his beautiful daughters his usual response was “it’s their mothers’ fault.” They say you can pick your friends and Rob had many all over the world, but you can’t pick your family. So I guess it’s just the luck of the Irish that Rob landed in the middle of the Kells family. We can only assume all the traits we loved in Rob have been passed along to the next generation. So far, signs are favorable. We’ll all miss you, Rob.
– Maggie Rowe
Thanks Rob for making me most welcome on my trips to California in the mid to late 70s- at the factory and out at the sites. You treated me as one of the team. I treasure special memories of your flying at Grouse and your wild aerobatics. I fondly remember the outlanding we both made at the Worlds in ’85 in a lush Austrian meadow having been twisted and turned in some wild air close to the Kaiser. A true gent.
– Rob Bailey
It’s September seventh. I am tandem with a student, on a Falcon. There is a red truck with racks below me. One of the few moments when everything is just right. I will never look at a red pickup without some wonderful memories.
– Neal Harris
I too have been at a loss for words at this horrible news. And now, at this very moment, Rob’s memorial service is going on and I’m stuck in North Carolina, mopping up after a hurricane and wishing I was there with you all to honor him, wishing I could tell someone how cool he was!! I worked at Wills Wing in the very early 80s, mostly in Second Layouts. I’d come in to work every day, and find myself surrounded by heroes–this pyramid of legends comprising the Wills Wing family of workers… and then at the very bottom of the totem pole there was me, feeling very un-adept on my knees trying to stretch another sail perfectly, trying not to mess up another grommet. Well, hero Rob Kells didn’t make a distinction who was a top dog in the company and who wasn’t. If you loved to fly (and I did), then you counted. If you tried all your best (and I did), then you always got flashed with the Rob Kell’s 1000-mega-watt smile! Everyone counted, everyone mattered, and he’d always go out of his way to make sure all of your questions had been answered and that you were fine. Sometimes he would get really busy, driving and flying all over the place, but you came to realize that he never really “forgot” anyone who was working for him: my colleague Bill Blaty and I would be sweating away in Second Layouts putting down a sail, and Rob’s head would suddenly pop in the doorway, and when he was sure we had noticed him he would flash that great smile… he wouldn’t say anything, he’d just grin and the whole room would light up instantly, causing you to remember WHY you were working so hard to make someone’s dreams of flight come true. And then, just as quickly, his head would disappear from the doorway, and he hadn’t even said one word yet the whole room was transformed, and Bill and I would just look at each other then and bust up laughing, incredulously. It was priceless! Rob was priceless. There was another time that really cracked me up. I was taking flying lessons back in those days with John Ryan and happened to find out that Wills Wing had some wings that needed to be delivered to him in San Diego and also at Torrey Pines. Of course, I offered to deliver them. Well, Bill Blaty and Steve Pearson were hoisting the gliders up on my truck out back of Wills Wing, and suddenly there’s this screeching of tires and smoke, hailing the arrival of Rob. He jumps out of his car, flashes his mega-watt smile, and Bill Blaty immediately says to him very impressively, “Anne’s gonna take these gliders down to John Ryan for you.” Rob stopped, focused completely on me as his grin got progressively wider and wider, and then burst out, “GREAT!! SAVED me a trip to BORING PINES!!!” I just about busted a gut laughing. One of those “Rob-isms” that somehow I had missed before, said with his flat-out endearing genuineness. I’ll never forget it. Rob Kells was the best. To have any contact with him at all was to see face-to-face our own human potential, and that it is really as limitless as the sky. He was the living proof of that, the absolute best rowdy shining example for us all. I will always be grateful that our paths crossed and that he smiled for me, for all of us. I miss you all there at Wills Wing. You’re in my heart.
– Anne Cox Cabrera
I remember the first time I met Rob, he and Kathy were walking their first baby girl, Cara, down the street for her first outing. Rob was the proudest new daddy! He was equally excited when Maddy and Amy came into this world! My vision of Rob Kells will always be him with his little girls in backpacks or bike riding around the block with kiddie trailer in tow. Rob Kells loved his daughters.
– The Kaiden Family
Rob Kells Rob was a good friend who lost a prolonged struggle with prostrate cancer a few short weeks ago. Always the optimist, Rob truly believed that he would be able to win the battle against his cancer, and — if anybody could — it would have been Rob who would prevail in this type of battle. Unfortunately, not even the great spirited and strong Rob could win this fight. We first met Rob when he showed up in Southern California with a group of friends — traveling on an extended trip across country from the east where he grew up. Shortly after his arrival, Wills Wing fell into crisis with the death of my brother, Bob. The lack of management and direction that resulted — with my being in New York in medical school and unable to pick up the pieces – left a vacuum that Rob quickly filled. Rob came to the rescue with his usual full-speed-ahead style. He was convinced that he could take WillsWing back to health and greatness, and make it a large and profitable corporation. Although we were uncertain how much of this to believe (I am always skeptical about something that seems too good to be true), he convinced us to give him a try – which we did since we had few other options. Rob teamed up with Mike and Linda Meier and Steve Pearson — and remarkably — together they did exactly what he had said they could do. Rob turned out to be the exact right part of the equation that was needed at exactly the right time to do the job. Rob had the ability to place optimism up against all forms of reality and make it win out. By sheer will and determination, he refused to accept defeat and kept pushing ahead until he won. He would then gleefully point out how indeed there really was a justification for his optimism. Such was the nature of Rob. Rob truly was a great pilot – and if you didn’t believe it, just ask Rob. He had a good sense of humor and was able to take intelligence and analytical skills — add two heaping cups of optimism — and make any problem work out — while joking about how he was able to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. Rob always had a great heart, and as a friend, he was a truly loyal friend for life. You never had to worry about whether Rob would do the right thing in any situation. He had a sense of right and wrong that was strong and he always strived to do what was right. Even though it was often Rob who achieved a goal, he was always the first to point out the contributions and the achievements of others who helped. He was a leader in making hang gliding an honorable and safe form of flight and achieved the previously thought impossible goal of actually making a decent living in hang gliding for over 30 years. He was one of the pioneers in pushing for the use of parachutes and taught extensively on how to use them properly. His efforts have undoubtedly saved the lives of many pilots. Hang gliding and the aviation community lost a lot when we lost Rob Kells. He will be truly missed.
– Chris A. Wills, MD
I’ve been putting this off with loss of words. I knew of Rob’s courageous battle yet hearing of his passing was a blow to the heart. I was a customer and friend of Chris and Bob Wills in the early 70’s. Wills Wing was a growing little company that was more of a Bob and Chris Wills’ “Rowdy Boys Club”. I remember the bunch of young hard charging guys in the huge RV from the east. And watched in amazement as the four of you, Rob, Mike, Linda, & Steve, took over the struggling hang glider company and grew it into one of the world’s most respected and innovative hang gliding companies. Rob left an incredible legacy in the world of hang gliding. He was truly an ambassador of the sport with influence world wide. God speed Rob.
– Dean Tanji
By Jesus Bert, I don’t think we can get there from here. So many good things to remember. Love Bobert
Linda, I just read about Rob, I am so sorry we have lost him. My time with Rob and the WW family was life-changing; I can still feel the energy and passion for life 28 years later and 1000 miles away… Please offer my condolences to Trish, Nancy, and all of Rob’s family, as well as Mike and Steve. I’m glad that I had the chance to spend some email time with Rob last year, I could see that easy smile on every page!
– Rod Stafford
Dear Linda, Mike, Steve et al: I just now heard about Rob’s passing. I feel for all of you and your loss, even as I feel my own sense of loss, though I didn’t know him well. His contribution to all our lives was immeasurable in so many ways. Please know my heart is with you all.
– Jim Lawrence – Sport 2 pilot, upstate NY
Mike, My heart breaks for the team at Wills Wing, Trish, and for the family that Rob loved so dearly. I would love to be able to attend the service, but life gets in the way back here in Buffalo. Rob has touched people all the way here, and at Rochester Area Flyers based in Rochester. We all will miss him and his wit at demo days. He had a way of making a stranger a friend in minutes, and addressing the meek in a group of pilots that would always crowd around him wherever he went. He was the icon of Wills Wing! Knowing the special person that he was, is demonstrated in how he made public and stressed so hard to get out the message for getting a PSA test. Most people faced with that news [cancer] would retreat into their own comfort zone of self-pity. Not Rob, he shouted it from rooftops so we would not suffer the same fate. He is flying with angels now enjoying the fruits of being a great person. Influencing the heavens to support Hang Gliding and maybe Paragliding too, because that IS who he was! Regrets,
– Thomas Ide
Rob Kells and I knew each other many years. But mostly through aerobatic hang-gliding and the ‘glory days’ of the 80’s. Those television shows we made in Telluride would not have happened without Rob Kells. But, beyond all that wang dang doodle business of ‘rodeoin” in the sky… one day I landed early in the Elsinore LZ…it had been kick-ass and ‘someting’ pushing in from the pacific. I began my lazy take-down, and the usual crowd of bravado was gathering. Everybody was ‘down’ or gone sky surfin’,and there was no wind in the LZ. Rob and Mitch had taken off late, in typical fashion, and came scootin’ over the last ridge into the LZ with about 300’AGL…Rob was first and he pulled into a small bubble goin’ up at MAYBE 50’/min directly over the quagmire of wild flying tales and beer in the LZ…he started a lazy circle and circled and circled and disappeared. It’s the first time Ive’ ever seen the E-TEAM speechless! The guy was exceptional. My heartfelt condolences to family, freinds, and tribe. And, Rob..say hello to rac for me. Mahalo Aloha, chuck dugan
– chuck dugan
Dear Mike, Linda, Steve & all at Wills Wing, We were so sorry to hear of Rob’s passing……….what a huge loss to the whole free flying world, but especially to you who had the pleasure of knowing him so well. Although I only met him a few times, he was one of those people who left an indelible mark on you – a general “feel good” sense that never left. I arrived at Wills Wing in 1983, yet another WW pilot, fresh faced and as keen as mustard, knocking at the door. Rather than the jaded welcome that busy people could be forgiven for doling out to such an interruption, all of you were so kind. Rob made a big effort to get me the stuff I needed before going to Owens Valley and, on my return, even got me some special “100 mile club” T-shirts printed (that weren’t XL sized). He was so big hearted, kind & caring. It shone through like a beacon to all around him. It must have been a great comfort to him to have you, as well as his family, walking alongside, holding his hands on that most lonely of journeys during his illness. In some ways, it’s harder to be an observer, watching someone you love suffer. He wrote that “God is in my corner”. I guess if I were God, I would want Rob’s company too, and call him home prematurely. We are thinking of you Love Judy Leden & Chris Dawes
– Judy Leden, UK / France
I only met Rob once or twice…. many years ago. He made a real impression, was free and generous with his time. What a lovely guy.
– Mark Taggart
The first time Rob came to Japan 25 years ago, we were amazed with his well controlled looping, But more impressive was his safety policy. The man from a top manufacturer told us “The success of Wills Wing cannot exist without schools”. So, we also have been keeping the same dealer policy until now. SPORT, the new concept of recreational top glider with the first 7075 material in the world. FALCON, the first perfect beginner glider with top technology. It was my joy that we could have a marketing idea jointly with him and Wills Wing crews. They have been developing the gliders not only for selling but also for growing the market of this sport. My time staying with Rob was not so long, but I was happy to work and fly with him. Rob, you innovated us ! You always made me feel positive ! I would like to keep your spirit with Wills Wing family. Tsune When I look up the sky now, I feel an image of Rob who is flying higher and more freely after his big jobs in our world. Thanks to have an opportunity to meet him and share the splendid time of this Sport. Sachiko
– Tsuneyuki and Sachiko Horota – Japan
gucci from france, just a little word in french. Merci Rob pour ta generosite et pour tout se que tu a apporte au sport et a ca communaute, tu nous manquerra a tous…. we will miss you…
– gauthier guiraud de levizac
For me, Wills Wing has always been a place of friends…and magic. And Rob was the chief magician…. My world has been made better by that magic. God speed, Rob.
– Scott Smith
Trish, Linda, Mike and Steve, I was deeply saddened to hear of Robs passing and regret I could not give him a bear hug and say goodbye. The announcement has left a void in my life and I can’t even begin to imagine how it affects all of you. I do know that Rob had a passion for life and flying that was unsurpassed. I also know he would want all of us to continue to celebrate the unforgettable life experiences hang gliding gives to all of us. My first encounter with Rob’s mischievous zest for life was at the hotel Steve Perry and I stayed at, when we attended the first Wills Wing dealer training seminar in Santa Ana in the mid seventies. Steve and I were walking into the hotel lobby when we heard this screeching of tires on the pavement just outside the entrance to the hotel. This 240 Z car was in a side ways drift that ended up six inches parallel with the curb in front of the hotel lobby. Best parallel parking job I had ever witnessed. When the smoke from the tires had cleared, out stepped Rob Kells! That seminar was an introduction to Wills Wing and Rob’s effervescent sales style. The seminar would have put Tony Robbins presentations to shame, had it not been for the raucous Macaws (Chico & Tango) in the back of the room! Steve and I decided half way into the seminar, that this presentation was so professional, we probably should move the birds out of the meeting room. The shower rods and curtain in our hotel room, were never the same after that! From that point on the lower half of the San Joaquin Valley’s sky have been alive with Wills Wing gliders. Rob always treated our local pilots with the utmost respect and his generosity will never be forgotten. A group of us went over to Santa Barbara for a fly-in and I had lost one of my deflexors to the SST I was flying. Rob said fly this brand new Raven and darned if it didn’t set me down right in the middle of the spot landing tire. The Santa Barbara guys paid for our dinner that night. Thanks Rob! Over the years I met with Rob at Guadalupe sand dunes, Tollhouse, Wallaby, Telluride, Dockweiler reunion and Ed Leven. Every time the infectious Smile and Greeting was as if we had flown together the day before, a true gentleman always! My last personal meeting with Rob was at our local flying site in Dunlap. Without hesitation Rob fit us into his busy schedule and all the local pilots got to see Rob at his finest. His Red WW truck loaded with WW gliders and the trailer in tow. Every pilot got to fly the latest and greatest gliders in the world! That day, one of our local pilots took out a down tube landing a U-2 for the first time. He wanted to pay Rob for the down tube and his help replacing it. He got the patented Rob reply “The first one is always free”! Life is truly a very fleeting experience, don’t be afraid to hug those you love and thank them for their positive contributions! I will miss the man, his quick wit, never ending energy and his ability to just be one of us! Thanks Rob. Best-O-Lift!! Dan
I am deeply saddened by the news. At Ailes de K-USA Inc we worked close with Rob and Mike of Wills Wing defeating an attempt by John Bouchard to obtain license fees from all paraglider manufacturers. During that time in 92/93 I got to know Rob as a very good businessman, a reliable trade partner, a great guy with a good sense of humor. I would like to offer my sincere condolences to Rob’s family and the whole Wills Wing Team. May God be with Rob and his family! Christian Mulack
– Christian Mulack
So I’m sitting on my tractor mowing yesterday (4 acres)…. thinking of Rob…. and I’m coming up with all these “Rob-isms”.
I know I’ve already written a “remembrance”, but there’s no rules against a second round!
Rob LOVED to beat up the English language & peoples names, and had tons of catch phrases that he used so often … many of which I think he originated. I find myself using them constantly, and in that light…. Rob lives on!
His dealer wasn’t in Sacramento… he was in “sack-a-tomatoes”
He wouldn’t ask when does your plane land? He’d ask, “When do you slam in?”
I think he invented “It’s blowing like stink!”
He was the first person I heard call Gliders “divers”
Larry Tudor was “Larry 2-doors”
Bill Bennett was “Bill Bend-it”
Bob Trampeneau was “Bob Trample-nose”
Dennis Pagen was “Dense Pages”
Jean Michel Bernasconi was “Jean Michel Burnt-Boloney”
Linda Salimone was “Linda Salad & Boloney”
Steve Pearson was “Steve Pair-sun”
Jerry Forburger was “Jerry Floor-booger”
I was “Paulie”
Mike was “Mikey”
A Falcon was a “Falcooon”
A Ram-Air was a “Scram-Air”
He wouldn’t say air was turbulent. He’d say, “That’s the kinda air that’ll rip your lips off!”
Telluride was “to Hell you ride”
Crestline was “Crust-line”
Torrey Pines was “Boring Pines”
Aero-towing was “Scary-towing”
“Pin-head” was a favorite…. (I might have started him on that)
If you asked him why a certain manufacturers design needed the nose-cone permanently attached, He answered: “Cause if you forget the nosecone on that diver, it’ll blow up like a puff-fish & flip over like a pancake and turn you into a dead guy”
Homer Simpson (or Scott Jewell) got him going on “DOH !!”
A poor flying glider was a “Bowzer”
He probably invented the term “Pound in”
Heinekens were “Green boys”
When I wasn’t “Paulie”… I was “Voighter”
Of course…. A Hang Glider was a “Hand Glider”!
There are tons of em…. but these are some of my favorites. They make me laugh, which is a good thing!
And… of course he had a signature phrase for when you’d part ways or get off the phone with him…. “Weeeeeeee’L SEE YA!”
Any time I hear or say a “Rob-ism”, I’ll think of him and smile.
– Paul Voight
I met met Rob in 1970, we were sophomores in high school. Along with Lee and Dana he became one of my best friends, for a whole lot of reasons. Our group was pretty special, we did everything together. OK, school wasn’t much of a priority back in the day. We travelled together, skied real hard, raced motorcycles, broke some bones together, lots of music, a few Molsons, late night swims on hot summer nights with the girls, Debby, Donna, Kris, and a few more. And yes, to the surprise of none of you who know Rob, we competed at a few things- sometimes hard fought – but we always came out the other side as better friends. Then one day Rob said let’s go hang gliding with Mike G. So a few of us made our way to a little hill near town and flopped around for a while. The rest is history. Rob kept at it- you all in his winged world know that side of Rob much better than I. But I know this – Rob would travel the country with a pile of gliders on his Subaru wagon and he would often stop for a night or two in Denver. Then, late at night, after we solved a few of the world’s problems, and with a smile that you all know, he would tell me that he planned to change the world, for the better. I laughed at the time, but you know, in his way, he did – with his insufferable energy, passion for life, that smile, and his willingness to talk to anyone, anytime. Truly, what more can you do. I lost touch with Rob over the last 10 years as we raised families and all. And then about 5 months ago Rob called, out of the blue, we caught up, and he wanted to make sure I was on top of my cancer screenings – and yes, he told me of his personal battle. As he spoke, Rob was positive, strong, and convinced then, as I’m sure he was till his last breath, that he would beat the beast. He knew no other way. To his mom Georgia, sisters Donna and Nancy, Trish, who I have not met, but whose strength, love and support pours though every message, and to his girls, my very deepest sympathies. miss you RTK, love David
– David P. Temple
Rob and I go way back to when Wills Wing was just getting started. We have been good friends for over 25 years. One of my best memories about Rob is the look in his eyes when he told me over twenty years ago he wanted to build the best hang gliders in the world. Well he did .Thanks Rob and Wills Wing for all the great memories shared on earth and in flight.
– John Pitt
by William P. Liscomb
Quietly mourning, a breeze stirs.
An ill wind has blown here.
Unwanted, stubborn, it has taken what it needs,
what we want, the delicate powerful gift of life.
Go now Rob, and become the wind.
Be the wind that warms,
the wind that cools
the wind I am part of when I soar.
And so the wind blows
as it has and will
across the land,
pushing our clouded memories
along the paths of our lives.
– Bill Liscomb
Damn, this was sad news, The years I spent in hang gliding were some of the best times of my life. Rob and Wills Wing helped our small Hang Gliding business get started and Rob always went out of his way to make me feel like my small company was the only customer he had. He would visit us always bringing new toys to play with and help the beginner as well as experienced pilots going out of his way to show his passion for flight. His hospitality was just as genuine when I would visit the factory. I remember fun times when he stayed with us at our home at Hensons gap. I never met you Trish but can tell you that he was larger than life to me but treated my family as his family. As pilots we enjoy a passion that others only dream of, Rob was a good man and will leave a large hole in our small community. I know he is in a better place now, getting all the air-time he wants and I am sure he is still helping out and watching over us all. I am privileged to have known him. God Bless – Cliff and Gail Whitney Elijah, Sierra
– Cliff Whitney
A prince has passed! I feel him smiling as I remember so many wonderful vignettes where he touched me and others. Most recently this spring in Florida; he gently calmed me down when I got flustered in the launch line. Thirty odd years ago at a fly-in in Elmira NY when he skied us all out and left us amazed at his skill. I believe he’s now also soaring superbly on this, his ultimate flight. For those of us left behind without his stellar presence, condolences can’t quite cut it. We love you brother. Be with us and be well.
– Michael Robertson
Hi Steve, Mike and Linda, I am very sorry about the loss of Rob. My condolences to you, the whole Wills Wing crew and his family. I will never forget the time I met Rob at Wills Wing, especially driving with him from California to Florida and back a week later. Let’s keep his spirit living! Best regards,
– Carsten Friedrichs
Hi Trish You were such a special gift to Robs life that I often wondered if you ever really knew just how much you touched and help change his heart… We Love you for it.. Mark
– Mark Vaughn
Hello Trish, I’m sure you have had plenty of people writing and sending their thoughts and feelings of love your way I would like to add mine too…I am at a loss for words but I just wanted to let you know that I’m thinking of you especially at this time…along with the rest of Rob’s family. I can not even imagine what it must feel like for you but I know the love you two shared will never go away ….I witnessed it…everyone did and it was a beautiful gift you both shared with us all…thank you for this….know that you are thought of and loved at this time and always!!! A friend from afar….oxoxox Kari
– Kari Castle
Rob You’re the best. Gods speed be with you. I will always think with admiration. You are one of the nicest people I have ever met. Love you Rob
– Ken Lynne – Wayzata Mn
I’m sorry to hear about Robs passing, I hope you, Linda and Steve are coping. Unfortunately I never met Rob personally, but he was always happy to help whenever I called or emailed, as you all are. My condolences to you all at Wills Wing and Robs family.
– Bill Degen – New Zealand
The smile says it all when I speak of my cousin Rob. He had that Kells smile that would warm a room and put everyone at ease. He was confident, but he had that soft side of him that would make you melt. I will never forget the ride he took me on in his 240Z as a young teen. He frightened me so bad that I couldn’t wait to get out of the car, but all along I knew that he had a skill far beyond his years. I watched him conduct business in New Hampshire many years ago at a demo day, and I was so impressed with his knowledge and skill with Wills Wing products. I want to express my deepest sympathy to all of his family during these difficult times. He lived a life doing what he loved to do. How can one ask for more than that!! God Speed. Cousin Kerry
– Kerry Kells
To say that Rob will be missed… His brave outwardly positive attitude this last couple of years has been one of the most impressive things I’ve known about him since I started trying to chase him around in about 1978. To me, even before working with him, Rob was one of the most naturally influential people I’ve ever met, positively and permanently affecting so many others. Now, once again, the flying hill has changed.
– David Gibson
Rob – Sorry you had to leave so early, but, we’ll see you in the end. Rocketman
– Bonnie and Dave Sweigart
Streaming condolences to Linda, Mike, Steve, and our hang gliding family … Hang gliding’s substantial steady spars are several; Rob Kells remains one of those giant key spars forming our wings. Rob, thank you for the Lift you lived and gave to so many hang gliders.
– Joe Faust
It is important that even old friends reach out at a time of loss to remember those who made their mark on all of us in one way or another. Even though it has been maybe 20 yrs or so since I have seen Rob, his spirit, smile, competitiveness and love for adventure ( risk?) are in front of me as if it were yesterday. My regards to all who have been closest to him more recently. I can only imagine the void that exists. With warm memories, Debby Phillips Bierman
– Debby Phillips
I can only aspire to be as loved and cherished as Rob. The happiest I saw Trish was when she was with him. They deserved each other’s companionship. How unfortunate that I couldn’t have gotten to know him better. Obviously, God wanted more time with him too. (Longtime family friend)
– Tom Townsend
Trisha, Linda, Steve, Mike – In representation of the pilots from Ecuador we all feel very sad about this notice about Rob, he was a very nice guy with me, with really special details that made him to be unique . Hugs Raul & Jonathan Larenas
– Raul & Jonathan Larenas, Ecuador
It is amazing how many people fly in & out of your life , you meet so many people in your life , and some of them stick out and have meaning – especially when you find out that a tragedy has taken place in one of those persons lives . You then recall what that person meant to you and become very sad that they have passed on . Rob seemed to be a great guy and really into his business and I always enjoyed the brief times that I had with him here and there through the years . He always answered my questions and seemed to really care and I found that rare in this day and age . He touched a lot of lives and I am sure in his passing he took great care in providing for his 3 beautiful daughters that I had heard a lot about from others who knew him . My thoughts and prayers go out to them – as I know this must be very very tough on them and I hope they are dealing with his loss with lots of love and understanding and care . I lost my wife in a tragic car accident and know how hard it can be on the surviving children . With so much going on – I remember that kids can sometimes get forgotten in the grieving process , as well as maybe needing some financial help . I am hopeful that his kids are doing well and they were taken care of through this and in the aftermath . Again , Rob was a good man and my prayers go out to all the surviving family … Franklin Johnston , CA.
– Franklin Johnston , Crestline , CA
Rob you are an inspiration to us both. Your life has touched ours in every way. We miss you. We love you. Peter and Dexa
– Peter and Dexa
Rob Kells gave me inspiration to step up and get a higher performance glider, not to mention get me a deal and have faith in my flying skills. I am deeply saddened by his loss and hope he’s flying in the clouds amongst us still, as he loved..
– Crystal Winslow
Rob was an amazing man! I feel so privileged to have known him for the time that I did. From the moment we met it was clear that he put other’s needs in front of his own. I will always remember how willing he was to help anyone with anything. He taught me many things over the last six years and I will cherish them all. Two things that I will always remember are his smile and his trust and faith in the Lord! Thank you Rob, I love you and will see you in Heaven.
– Jaclyn Pelot (Trish’s daughter)
I haven’t seen Rob for over 20 years, since he used to do the Wills Wing Demo Days. He was originally from the Syracuse, NY area, where I live. Rob was one of the more experienced pilots when I was taking hang-gliding lessons, and I remember when he, Dale Sherman, Shane Connor and one other pilot whose name escapes me went to California. I ultimately purchased 3 Wills Wing gliders; a Swallowtail, an SST and a Raven. I’d just like to add that Rob was a great guy, very patient and helpful with pilots less-experienced than himself, and a credit to the company. He will be sorely missed.
– Phil Hall
It is hard to imagine hang gliding without Rob Kells. No one else has touched so many of us in this community. We all have our own great memories of Rob, and we will all miss him.
– Fred Leonard
MET ROB IN THE LATE EIGHTYS, AT A GROUSE MOUNTAIN, CANADA FLY IN COMPETITION. SO SORRY TO HEAR OF HIS PASSING. HAVE ALWAYS LOOKED UP TO HIM IN THE LOOK TO THE SKY VIDEOS, A CLASS ACT! MY REGARDS TO HIS FAMILY, AND THE WILLS WING BUSINESS.
– Virgil Dahrens
It is with great sorrow that we have recevied the sad news of the sudden and untimely passing of Mr. Rob Kells. Please accept our heartfelt condolence and convey our deepest sympathy to his family and associates
– A. LAM SAILS LTD. HONG KONG
Linda, I am just sickened by the loss of Rob Kells. Although I was a relatively unimportant and fledgling pilot for many years and even stepped away from WW gliders for a time, Rob always made me feel like I mattered. That is amazing considering how busy and how spread thin he was at the times I saw him (usually at LMFP or Wallaby) when I used to live in the south. I was also encouraged that his wife, Trish, whom I only met once, stood by him all the way. What an amazing woman she is. I am glad he was surrounded by such an amazing amount of love and appreciation. Wills Wing seems to have a great staff and I am confident will continue to run strong. I know this has to have been hard on everyone even though the transition has been happening for awhile. Take care,
– Lori Allen – Park City, Utah
So sorry to have not had the chance to say goobye. Godspeed Rob. Say Hi for me to Scott Jewell when you see him.
– Harry Sudwischer
Please accept my sincere condolences over the passing of Robert T. Kells, Jr. I hope you will recover from everyone’s deep sorrow very soon. Please keep your chin up.
– HIROSHI KATSUYAMA and staff – OSHINO Sky Sports Club – Japan
Dear Trish, Linda, Mike, Steve and all the Wills Wing Family, First, I want to say how sorry I am about Rob’s passing. He was a great pilot and hero to hang glider pilots everywhere ever since the film Double High was made in Telluride. He was truly a master on a hang glider. He will go down in history as one of the fraternity of innovators that gave us the wonder craft we have today. I wanted to share with you the first time I met him in pictures and words. I was a fresh H3 in 1980 and had just gotten out to Crystal Flight Resort at Racoon Mountain after my chemistry class at UT Chattanooga one day when everyone was looking up in the sky and oohing and awing. I grabbed my 35 mm camera and tried to follow him though the sky. I almost became disoriented just trying to get a good picture. I did not know who it was, but I thought at the time he was either amazing or crazy, but either way I wanted to get a good picture. You can see the first decent picture I got where he was coming out of a wing over and going straight down at about 100 feet off the deck. The second picture was his pullout going nearly straight up right next to the aerial tramway cable tower wires. He leveled off, came around and made a perfect landing. Amazing! I asked Tom Phillips, Crystal Co-owner, “Who in the heck was that?” He said “Rob Kells – he’s president of Wills Wing and one of the best pilots in the world.” I knew the reputation, but not the man. He came over talking to everyone and was smiling so big and was just so happy that I thought he had an adrenaline hang over. But he stayed that way all evening and was a ball of energy, while being friendly to everyone. Rob was talking to me about how amazing the Raven model he was flying and he promised it would double my airtime because you could work the lift so easy. He was so believable that I sold my Olympus and bought one of the stock Raven’s Dan Johnson had on hand. Rob was right…. I had way more fun on the Raven than the Olympus. It handled so easy. I still have that Raven and use it in teaching my high school physics class to let the kids experience the feeling of the forces of flight. They love it every year. I will always be a keeper….just like memories of Rob. I last checked on Rob in February this year with a note inquiring about his health and wishing him the best. He responded just like 1980 was yesterday with energy, faith, kindness and a smile coming through the computer. That’s how I’ll remember him. Peace to you all,
– Warren Puckett
Hey Linda- I am so sorry about Rob. I liked him so much and was always happy to see him coming our way. He was always so easy to talk to and seemed so happy. He is missed and all of you are in my thoughts. Smooth Winds,
– Jen – Lookout Mountain Flight Park
GOT HIS WINGS THAT GUY WAS COOL AN EXCEPTIONAL CRITTER
Hard to believe I met Rob over thirty years ago when he arrived at Wills Wing…I still remember that motor home. Some of the best times of my life were spent at Wills Wing but after Bob’s death I felt my life needed to go in a different direction and that meant leaving. Knowing that Rob would be there made a very painful decision less difficult. The entire Wills Wing family is so talented and lovable I knew Rob fit right in and together look what they’ve done. Rob was such an enthusiastic participant, supporter and promoter of hang gliding. He was multi-talented and one-of-a-kind. Oh yeah, and an awesome pilot. Although we didn’t remain close over the years, every time we saw each other it took us right back to so many great memories of the good old days of hang gliding. Susan and I are grateful we got a chance to see him one more time at The Big Blue Sky premiere this spring. We will always remember his big smile and the high energy he brought to his life, the sport and the people around him. To the Kells family and the entire Wills Wing family our deepest sympathies. You are in our thoughts and prayers. Rob, I love you and I’ll miss you buddy.
– Burke Ewing
My condolences to all that new Rob. We have lost more than words can describe. Rob delivered HP1 #14 to me at Ellenville in 1984. I watched him run off in flip flops in a light tailwind. Fifteen years later he helped me to understand how USHGA BOD worked treating me as an equal, making me feel wanted and important. Here’s to the spirit of Rob. He made this world a better place.
– Randy Leggett
It was a rare honor to have known Rob. Not many like him in our world. His contributions to our sport and more importantly to our lives have been beyond measure. We will miss him.
– Ken Grubbs
It is very weird to have that hole in the universe where Rob once was. I’m sorry our time with him is over, but really glad he didn’t have to endure a lengthy, drawn out, painful end to his illness. I’m also glad Rob got to spend a super happy last 6 years with Trish! They made the most of their time together…. and you could tell Rob was really in a happy place with Trish, every day. As far as remembrances…. I could fill a couple books with them. (couldn’t show much of it to my folks though 🙂 We met in about 1978 & became good friends (and drinking buddies) immediately. It’s a small planet & we’d find ourselves in the same places several times a year, and we had great times every time we connected. We had phone conversations weekly (doing business)… and I’ll really miss those “Kells deals”. (Is there REALLY a “Kells deal” rubber stamp at W.W.?) I’ll tell two short remembrances that were the first to pop into my mind…. First… is just a recollection of a CRAZY 4th of July week here in New York, in about 1982 ?… with Rob, Dan Racanelli, & Pat Maggard all out to do an Aerobatic show for the town. The show went fine. The rest of the time we just went NUTS. Millions of fireworks & bottle rockets & car to car wars at insane speeds, late nights, forest fires (oooops!) good flying…. just a crazy, crazy week. Second story: Rob taught my son Ryan (now 23 years old) how to walk. So…. Rob arrives at the house one evening… cause it’s W.W. demo daze or something. Ryan was still crawling…. but pretty ready. In typical Kells style…. he goes… “That guy’s ready to walk! Here’s all you gotta do!”… & he puts a toy way across the room from the coffee table… on a chair. He starts playing with Ryan, points to the toy and sure enough… Ryan just walks across the room like it was old hat. (We’d tried this many times before…. but “Uncle Rob” had the magic that night) It was awesome! Anyway… there are two stories to remember Rob by. I’ll miss the guy forever & feel very fortunate to have been friends with such an amazing guy.
– Paul Voight – Ellenville Area, N.Y. , USA
I’ve known about Rob’s death for over a week and still can’t believe it. Nor do I know what to say. I am so sorry and I know words can’t fill the void left by his passing, but we must go on. Rob always had a good word and a smile. Always up, always a positive attitude. I remember coming back to the apartment one day and seeing Robs chute and harness on the balcony railing drying out. I asked him what had happened.He was still wide eyed and he told me that he was testing a chute deployment and had landed in Lake Elsinore and almost drowned. Then he told me about how he and his dad had dumped a seaplane in a lake and almost drowned when he was young. He got real quiet for a few seconds then it was back to the Rob we all know. It was then that I thought he could beat anything. Whe I heard he had cancer I just figured, ha he’ll beat that no sweat. I was wrong. The Good do die young. Like others have said, he was just a regular guy. Not full of himself or trying to impress people with his title. I remember we were having dinner one night and started talking to a couple of women. (this was ’81 Trish) One of them asked what we did for work and Rob was quick to answer that he was a janitor at a HG factory. But he was the head janitor. That was it, just a guy doing a 8-5 job nothing special. But we know him as a giant in the sport and he was special. He will be missed. Trish, I know that you’re feeling a pain that non of the rest of us can, but know that there are prayers going out for you and the rest of the family. I’ve never met you but I know you must be very special and were lucky to have had Rob. There’s more support for you then you will ever know. Linda, Mike and Steve. I know these are trying times for you. But I know you and know that you are strong and will keep on keepin’ on. Believe me, never give up. Even though you’ve gotten tons of support there’s more out there than you’ll ever directly hear about. Wills Wing has had tough times before and pulled through, you can do it again. There’s no doubt that’s what Rob wanted. Wish I could be there to help. Get high and go far my friend.
– Tim Morely
I met Rob at Questa Dunes in 1980 when I was just a kid and Rob called me Kenny Kid from that point forward. Rob was a key inspiration for me to enter into the professional hang gliding world. The sun still shines bright and the wind has that refreshing bite yet there is something missing in the air. Thank you Rob for the years of friendly rivalry. You are missed by all your Sky Brothers!
– Kenny ‘kid’ Brown
although alot of us went our different ways our class always had a special bond, i’ll remember Rob trying to show me his amazing snow ski tricks. My thoughts are with his family and friends.
– fran nadler-chiarella
Since Rob’s passing I have searched my soul for some words to do him justice. We don’t need no steenking words to do this man’s life justice! I have his presence forever in my life thanks to his friendship and my admiration of him. To his daughters and his blessed wife Trish, Bless you he doted on you all!
– Jeff Nicolay
My family is so appreciative of all the wonderful messages sent to the Wills Wing memorial site. I always knew that Rob had many friends around the world, and reading the stories from all of you brings me such joy. I feel so lucky that Rob was my brother. The depth of my sadness and grief is the depth of my tremendous love and admiration for him. We shared a bond that death can’t break, and he lives on in my heart and soul. I know that when it is my turn to cross that bridge, Rob will be there waiting for me with open arms. Fly strong, little brother. Love, Dee
– Dee Kells Drew
Rob, you were Mr. Public Relations for the most successful family of business partners I have ever known. For over 20 years you entertained my students and fellow pilots during our factory visits with your “nickel tour.” You awed them with your energy and expertise, wowed them with your exploits, and made everyone who flew or dreamed of flying feel like part of the family. I always saw you answer each and every “wuffo” question with care and dignity. You had that special gift of gab and could sell ice cubes to the Eskimos. You were my mentor and I will miss ya! As you thermal in the heavens you are truly “Far Up.” Linda, Mike and Steve, we know you will have many smiles each day from memories as your hearts mend. Take care. Your friends,
– Jim & Cathy Reynolds
We are so sad to heard about Rob’s death, he was a very friendly guy. Deep condolences for his family and friends.
– Françoise Mocellin/Richard Walbec France
An Eagle has landed! This was sad news. Our condolences to Trish, the rest of his family, his Wills Wing family and his many friends. Rob built something bigger than himself, which is the trait of a true Master. His contribution to the art of flying and his kind, energetic and joyful personality, will be remembered. Khalil Gibran offers comfort in his book The Prophet, when he speaks about joy and sorrow: “When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
– Wenche and Stein Fossum, Norway
David Glover told the pilots at the awards ceremony in Big Spring on Saturday that Rob had died that morning. Jeff Shapiro talked about how we had been flying with a lot of joy and how much Rob would have loved that. Rob “adopted” many up and coming pilots at Wills Wing, many of whom continued on to represent the US in competition. He was no wussie — ha, you should hear his story about how his glider was fried in a power line when he was testing a parachute — but he was also always a voice of reason and an advocate for safety. The comp scene is an environment that is mostly male, competitive, and full of big egos, and Rob was a calming, positive influence. For me personally? When I ordered my Sport 2, there was supposed to be a wait of months. I told Rob wanted to fly my new glider to the beach and asked if they could ship it sooner. It left the factory in 3 days. He even sent me pictures of him flying it. When it came time for me to move up to a topless glider, Rob told me that WW didn’t have one in the right size for me, and sent me to Moyes. My safety was more important than him to a sale. He also helped me to purchase a harness and spent hours telling me how I could safely transition to both it and the glider. When Rob warned me that the U2 he’d left at Highland was too big for me (years ago), and that I shouldn’t fly it, I flew it anyhow — and I crashed it, doing much damage. Rob wouldn’t let me pay for it, not a penny. He just made me promise to use better judgment in the future. This man was handsome and full of life and adventure. He cared about the sport of hang gliding and he cared about people. I can’t believe he’s gone. We love you, Trish. What an incredible, worthwhile life Rob led.
– Lauren Tjaden
I would like to express my sincere condolences to all of Rob’s family and close friends. All of the people I fly with are very saddened by Rob’s passing. Most of us really only knew him from Demo Days and I doubt he knew all of us on a first name basis, but that’s not really the point. We sincerely appreciate the impact he made. He was the face of Wills Wing. He was a superb representative. This sport means so much to us. People like Rob make it what it really is… a great thing to do with a great group of people. Losing one too soon is a great loss. He most definitely left way too soon… Sincerely,
– Eric Carlson
This was no ordinary Life.This is a Life well lived and well loved. A Life extraordinarily and deeply missed. Rob would not want us to be too sad for too long. To Trish and the Kells Family, the Wills Wing Family and the Extended Fellowship of Friends we pray for Peace and Comfort…and close now, in Rob’s familiar way…”Cheers” Fondly, Jan and Peter Johnson
– Jan and Peter Johnson
Rob, we will surely miss you forever.
– Bob and Maureen Grant – London, Canada
For three decades, each time I saw the name of Rob Kells, it was synonymous with the name of Wills Wing. It is with sadness that I send my condolences to the Kells family and to Wills Wing following the passing of such a great person and aviator. May our thoughts and prayers remain with the Kells family and may they find comfort in past memories and among the mourners of our great sport. ( North Carolina )
– Tom Thompson
I never met Rob but I spoke with him on the phone and he was very helpful and encouraging. A friend and I started a new hang gliding club this year and we thought that we would like to offer tandems as an option for the Children’s Wish Foundation. I had it in mind to call and tell Rob about it since I knew he was battling cancer. Now I regret that I did not do that sooner. I think he would have loved the idea. Best regards to all who were close to Rob.
– Joe Street
Rob’s death has not only left a void in the hearts of the Wallaby Ranch crew, but in the lives of everyone who knew him. Rob was such a great guy – always smiling – even in the midst of the Wills Wing Fly In craziness (every single year!). His enthusiasm for flying and his love for hang gliding was so apparent and contagious. His strength and courage really shined through as he battled these last couple of years with cancer. His compassion, kindness, and gentle being will be sadly missed by us. He was truly amazing. We will always keep Rob’s memories held deeply within our hearts reminding us of how life should be lived. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Wills Wing Family, Trish and all of Rob’s family. Stay strong. Love from
– Malcolm, Laurie, Carlos and the entire Ranch Crew
We met Rob Kells for the 1st time at the 35th Wills Wing anniversary. We were impressed by the attentions he gave to all of us. My wife and I want to send you all our warmest love and deepest sympathy in your tragic loss. Serge & Nives from Tahiti
– Serge & Nives Mainente
I remember flying with Rob nearly thirty years ago at Crestline, being a very nervous fledgling dealer and trying to impress the “big guy”. Rob made me feel at ease right away, as if we were long time friends. I was always amazed at his people skills, leadership abilities and sense of fairness. He was a blessing to our sport, his company and I’m sure to most everyone he interacted with. I for one count myself as extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to know and learn from Rob. May God bless his family and friends.
– Mike Leger
My very sincere condolences to Rob’s family and friends.Your sense of loss must be profound. In the days since his passing as I reminisce of the time spent in his company I become more sorrowful for the stark realization that things will not be the same for his loss and that, I believe, is worthy of lament. Sail on brother. I do hope they have Heineken’s in the Hereafter….save me a cold one buddy….just on the longshot I make it in.
– Matthew Wagner
I’ve known Rob nearly half my life. I met him the first day I started working at Wills Wing nearly 18 years ago. He’d hired me on the advice of a friend of mine who worked there, but the main criteria for Rob approving my employment seemed to be that as an aviation enthusiast I’d managed to hitch a ride in a P-51 Mustang several years earlier. That was all the recommendation he needed to hire me sight unseen. Nearly everything I learned about customer support and sales at WW, I learned watching Rob. Even still, Rob alone was the master of the infamous “Kell’s Deal”, a customer friendly bargain that had us nearly giving away the shop each time we came across it. I even had a “Kells Deal” rubber stamp made so I wouldn’t have to explain to Linda (again) why the harness or sales order I just processed was priced somewhere at or below cost. But what I remember most fondly about Rob was that in 15 years of working at Wills Wing, there wasn’t a single time he wasn’t able to muster a smile or a cheery hello as he passed by my work area. It didn’t matter how tired, beat down, or stressed he was, he was still able to pull up some sunshine for the rest of us. His energy and enthusiasm was always contagious, and his zest for living was an inspiration. He will be greatly missed.
– Gene Atkins
My sincere condolences from spain.
– Jordi Tubert
If ever there was an iconic pilot, Rob was it. We were not what some would call close friends, but over the past 30 years I was always happy to see him and the magic of Rob is he was always happy to see me or any other pilot. You could look into his eyes and see the genuine love of flight and the world of brothers that shared his passion. When I was ready to buy my latest wing I called Rob. The U-2 was just out and I had not even seen one. He told me “Get a U-2 now, you will love it….if you don’t, I will buy it back from you.” Typical Rob. Of course he was right, I love it. I am glad he made it to the showing of Big Blue Sky earlier this year. A few hundred of his friends got to see him one last time. As I look through all the comments here, it strikes me how pilots from all over the world had such a universal love and respect for Rob. I will miss him and think of him often. Brad Hall
– Brad Hall
Rob’s Spirit will fly with us all and live in our hearts forever. Mitch, The YouTube link you added says it all. Scott Campbell.
– Scott Campbell
I didn’t know Rob well but at least had one memorable meeting with him. I had made my maiden flight on my new Sport2 and was struggling in the LZ to remove the tip wands. I saw the WW team breaking down gliders they had test flown and I wondered about asking their advice. Rob noticed my glance and encouraged my question. He dropped what he was doing, came right over and walked me through a few possible approaches. As he walked away, he said, “Hey, thanks for buying a Wills Wing glider.” I replied that it was my pleasure. A year earlier in my flying career, I showed up at the LZ without any ride arrangement to launch. Again, it was Rob who said “Hi” and offered a lift to Marshall launch if I could quickly throw my Falcon2 onto their truck. On that ride up I found the entire WW crew to be open and friendly to someone who was clearly a n00b. I’m proud to be a WW customer, on my third glider now (U2).
– Mike Blakely
It’s really impossible to put into words how amazing Rob Kells was. He did it all and did it really, really good. His wife Trish is also amazing and our whole family will be praying for her at this time. Knowing Trish and her faith I’m sure she’s comforted at least that Rob is in a better place now. After hearing about Rob’s passing I was going though my emails and found this one that Rob sent to my family and me last Christmas. “Hi Doug, Merry Christmas to you, your wife and your beautiful daugher. We are remembering the greatest gift ever given, our salvation through Jesus Christ as we celebrate His birth. We hope and pray that you will have a very blessed Christmas, and a healthy and happy 2008!” Be well my friend, Rob & Trish The great thing was that even though Rob was sick he still wanted to take the time to share his best Christmas wishes and his faith with us. It meant a lot to us and I thought by passing this email on, it might inspire & encourage everyone out there at this difficult time. We will miss you Rob. Thank you for everything!
– Doug Haber
I´m very sad to hear that Rob passed away, having suffered such a painful desease. Another great contributor to our sport who left this world way too early. My thoughts are with Trish, Rob´s family and close friends. With love, Corinna.
– Corinna Schwiegershausen, Germany
I first met Rob in 1977, shortly after Bob Wills fatal accident at Escape Country. I had just flopped into the Elsinore landing area on my SST and Rob ambled over to help me straighten out a bent downtube. We yakked awhile & he invited me over to Wills Wing to see the place and get to know some of the guys & gals over there. So that’s what I did. The way I was flying at the time, the guy probably saved my life. Reading the remembrances of Rob posted by others brings it all home. Rob Kells was the most charismatic, caring, personable, and handsomest man the world of hang gliding ever saw. My heart goes out to his family, friends, partners, and business associates — all of us who miss him and mourn his loss.
– Erik Fair
I was adopted by Rob and the Wills Wing family as a hang gliding orphan from a faraway land 25 years ago. Rob taught me a lot of things about being a real American, and never lost focus of the importance of Living Large. He chose a path in life that brought him respect, recognition and, most importantly, friends from all over the world. Rob’s insight into life’s importance and determination to live fully came to light during his relentless fight of late. I knew Rob as a mentor, teacher, inspiration, man of faith and a great friend. Freedom remains our common bond. He has gone West a happy man. I wish everyone could carry on his contagious smile. Part of my heart belongs to Rob, always, he deserves it.
– Josef Bostik
I’m so sorry to hear about Rob passing, what sad news indeed…
– Phil Sergent
On behalf of the Vermont Hang Gliding Assn. I would like to extend our sympathy and condolences for the loss of one of our sports icons and best friend. Robs devotion to the sport and helping pilots was unsurpassed. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
– Mike Holmes
It’s James DePasquale, your shipper from the late 90s. I wanted to express my sorrow and condolences for Rob. I check the Wills Wing website once in awhile to see how you all are doing and I saw his memorial page. My prayers and thoughts go out for Rob’s spirit and his family and also to the Wills Wing family. This is a shocker to me and I am saddened by it. Rob was always a cool guy to me, he talked to me and was down to earth. He will be missed. I just wanted to wish you all the best in these tough times and hope things are well with everyone else. Take care and keep flying!
– James DePasquale
I want to tell you something … obviously I want to express my condolescences … but I want also to tell you something more … something that was said to me when my mother died, in 3 months, when she was 52 ….. And I was 24 …. And I was crying at the take off area in Monte Cucco … where I was born …. ” Dead people is not dead if you are able to listen to them … they talk to you from your inside …. From your memories … You have just to keep silent and listen to them … and keep them alive … they live in you..” It helped me … I hope it will help you … ! So …. Keep doing always better gliders and keep alive the Rob’s flame …. If I were you … I would call the next best glider that way …. “Rob’s flame” or “Roboflame” … I am getting old …. I am gonna meet him soon.
– Mario LUPPA, the Roman soldier.
We first met Rob Kells when he brought a new bunch of Wills Wing glider models up to Waddel Creek near Santa Cruz in 1979 for us to try. We called him “the kid” because he was so young and had such an affable personality.- He was always smiling and joking….but had that unmistakeable “need to fly”…all over his eyeballs.- It was interesting at that time…no-one had ever soared the high, -far north cliff that was impossibly facing the wrong direction to reach-or soar in the high winds. Kells said “Why not?”..We replied that dozens and dozens of us had tried over the years…in many conditions….but it was impossible to do. Well..it was the end of the day…and Rob brought out a new prototype performance glider, and began flying. Sure enough…in about an hour….he topped-out in a little end of the day thermal pop…and through the diminishing ridge lift….snuck way over to the big cliff that couldn’t be soared…and proceeded to soar above it for quite some time.- When he finally landed back by us…we gave him a ration of sh** for coming to Santa Cruz and showing us all-up. – Of course he just had the biggest grin…and said in his typical businessman style..”Well,..buy one of these gliders, and you can do it too!” That was Rob,…always personal, always enjoyed joking with you(it wasn’t fake…you WERE important to him as a fellow-flying-buddy..).-He was a rare and genuine guy. One year Rob and I were joking at a competition(I was flying another brand glider.) And he actually showed my how to increase my performance stratagy to win easier(it worked-and I moved-up to pla 6th Place in a tough slugout I wasn’t even qualified for.) But one of the most telling stories came just a few years ago when he found out about a guy that was actually ripping-off the intellectual property of one of Rob’s COMPETITORS….It really made him mad that anyone would treat a fellow flyer so unfairly…So Rob got on the phone and made sure the national organization and everyone else-would lend support to his COMPETITOR MANUFACTURERS’ welfare!….no matter that it probably ended up costing Rob some business. He wasn’t threatened….Rob was principled! And for ALL that he was….he will never be forgotten. And I believe many of us will adopt…and carry on….some of the high human attributes….he taught and bestowed on us. –There are thousands of us out here….that aren’t at all emabarrased to say: “We loved you Rob… still do… always will…” –He took the time…to show us….how fun that life can be..
– Steve McQuilliams
I’ve been flying your wings for 7 years now. Rob’s demise struck me because he was still too young… like my granddad at the time. He died of prostate cancer too. Anyway, I believe the Wills Wing team has to go on, taking people to the skies where, I’m sure, they‘ll encounter Rob’s spirit in every flight, every turn, every thermal centered and every safe and easy landing ! Chin up ! Although I don’t know you guys in person, I’m sure Rob wouldn’t want to see you in any other way ! Wills Wing forever !
– Frank De Beuker – Belgium
I am sad for our loss of Rob. I am fortunate to have celebrated with him and all of you at Wallaby this spring. My sympathy goes out to the Kells and Wills Wing family. Sincerely,
– Barry Morwick
To Wills Wing, Mike, Linda and Steve My sincere condolences.
– Nixon, Leonarda, Flora, Ondas do Ar Team – Brazil
I heard about Robs passing and wanted to convey my condolences to all of you at Wills Wing. Rob was probably the kindest hang buddy I ever came across. Even after changing gliders and the new one being one of the “other” manufacturers he continued to lend a hand and always was eager to help out. It’s a sad day for hang gliding but on the other hand heaven has just been blessed with his presence and im sure he is already there helping out those who need it and brightening up everyone’s day there. Rob will live on in my memory till its my day to depart. Rgds
– Mike Glennon
It is difficult to find words to say how much it saddens me that Rob now has gone forever. I just want to offer to you all my condolences on his death. As I am suffering myself a very heavy loss after the accident of my best friend Richi, I can very well imagine how hard this days must be for those who miss him. Wishing you all the best.
– Nick and Kilian from Switzerland
The Oslo Area Hang Gliding Club offers our sincere condolences to Rob’s family, friends, and Wills Wing. The sport of hang gliding has lost one of its most prominent members.
– Bjørn Hammer – Oslo Area Hang Gliding Club, Norway
First…..and foremost, I want to express my sorrow for all of you with the passing of Rob. I just cannot believe it. I thought Rob looked pretty good this past spring…despite the rumors that he wasn’t doing so good. Hang gliding has lost a true “Hall of Fame” pilot. He will be sorely missed by all of us dealers and pilots. He was fair, honest and focused in business and one damn good guy to boot. His contributions have been and always will be forever appreciated.
– Richard Hays
Lauren and I were quite close to Rob and Trish and would like to express our sympathy and shared sense of loss. … Of course, we know how close you and all of the staff at Wills Wing were to Rob and want to let you know how sorry we are for your loss. Rob was bigger than life and will be missed greatly.
– Paul and Lauren Tjaden
Wills Wing and the friendships forged there will always be an important part of my life. I just wanted to extend my support and sympathies for this difficult time. Rob will be sorely missed.
– Don Burns
It must have been right after Bob Wills was killed and before the ‘1977 Heavener and Bust Nationals’. I had just bet a good part of my families’ future on a partnership in (of all things) a hang glider shop in (of all places) Heavener, Oklahoma. The anchor of that venture was the Wills Wing dealership. I had been totally convinced that Wills Wing was absolutely the finest thing in hang gliding after my first flight on an SST, compliments of Burke Ewing. Bob Wills must have sold his soul to the devil because it was very apparent that these Wills people had something going that could not be matched by anyone. I was certain that Bob Wills would show up at my home site for the Nationals and I would finally get to put a face with the voice on the phone. Then we heard the news. Some idiot, inattentive helicopter driver had pushed Bob into the ground while filming a commercial. All of a sudden black clouds covered a sky that previously looked so bright. The members of the Heavener Runestone Hang Gliding Association and I muddled on with preparations for the Nationals even though my heart wasn’t in it. Wills Wing would surely send a factory representative to the competition but whoever it was could not replace Bob. The day finally came when the official Wills Wing contingent rolled into town and pulled up at Sky Unlimited Hang Glider Supply. And a site like this I had never seen. These guys looked a little like the Joads on their way back from California. Stuff was packed and tied and hanging all over their automobile. There must have been four hundred and seventy two hang gliders strapped on top of that squatting old weather worn green Buick station wagon. I swear the car was breathing hard and its tongue was hanging out long after they shut the engine off. I asked myself, “This is Wills Wing ?” More black clouds. One of the guys rolled out of the wagon and introduced himself as Rob Kills. Kills ? Kills what ? No, Kells. OK Kells, who are you ? I’m with Wills Wing and this is Dan Johnson. (no – not that one – the other one). Long story short. Rob Kells swept into the 1977 Nationals and convinced everybody that there is a future with Wills Wing. He did it with a sincere personality, good technical knowledge of the equipment, generous attitude and genuine interest in everybody, both locals and competition pilots. Rob never seemed aloof. At that time, big name pilots were already developing a habit that runs rampant through the sport today. That habit is the attitude of being the ‘holier than thou’, with that ‘down the nose’ look at underlings. Rob never had that attitude. I watched Rob deal with beginners, woofs and world class pilots. Rob treated everybody as equal. He made everybody feel worthy. While he was there, he made a bunch of friends, convinced some skeptics and even sold a few gliders. (That old station wagon was happy to see the gliders go; anything that might reduce the load for the trip home.) The weather sucked and the 1977 Nationals were a bust but the bright spot was Rob. After the competition was over and as they drove off into the sunset, the future with Wills Wing looked much better because of my new friend, Rob Kells.
– Jerry Forburger
I met Rob several times over 25 years of flying and always was impressed by his enthusiasm for his job, for flying and for life. Please pass on to his family my heartfelt feelings and support. Core that lift, Rob!
– Rob Reiter
I wanted to express my deepest sadness on the passing of Rob Kells. While my encounters with him were brief (Free Flight – Germany & flying sites in the Western US) he was always friendly even when I wasn’t flying Wills Wing. He represented Wills Wing in a professional and most of all friendly manner. In Germany during Free Flight he was a friendly fellow countryman that shared the same love of flight. To this aging hang glider pilot who took to the air in 1977 Rob Kells was a pillar of the lifestyle; sport just doesn’t do what we experience justice. To the Wills Wing family I express my sense of loss and deepest condolences to you all. Where ever he may be; I hope he’s pushed way out in a thermal and climbing towards the heavens – God’s Speed Rob, God’s Speed!
– Dan Utinske – Kuwait
I want to offer, in name of our Bautek-team our sincere sympathy. We were very sad at the news of Rob Kells death. One of the most outstanding and appreciated persons of the world of hang gliding has left us too early. We wish a lot of courage to his family and to the Wills Wing team. We are sure that you, Linda and Steve will keep up with his passion.
– Harald Zimmer and the Bautek-team – Germany
I am shocked and very sorry to hear this – I had no idea that he was suffering with this terrible problem. Rob was here when I went through the worst day of my life exactly 10years ago (9thJune’98) – which was a terrible blow for the whole greek HG community. I have always had a special sympathy for him since then. I know he had the best and warmest support from all of you. Deepest condolences to all of you and to his family. Panagiotis also sends his deepest condolences.
– Lillian LeBlanc – Greece
Embrace your passions, Keep your house in order, and smile a lot. Best wishes to everyone at Wills Wing, and my friend Maralys, whom I “met” on email after reading her book. I hope you listen to the song, and find comfort in it. “We are here for a good time, not a long time.”
– James Kennedy
I’m afraid that anything that I might write to try to convey to people the kind of man that Rob Kells was would be woefully inadequate. I think simply enclosing the email that he sent me 3 months before his death (when he was busy fighting his personal life-and-death struggle but still took the time to ask about my health) better illustrates the kind of person he was and why the world will be a sorrier place without him. Hey Mark, Hope you’re feeling better and healing fast. Trish & I are in the wing mines working away and thought we’d drop a note to let you know we’re thinking about you and sending lots of positive energy & healing love your way. Hope you aren’t being a bad patient and that Joan is smiling these days. Get well and God bless, Rob & Trish
– Mark Stucky
Peace be with you all.
– Scott B. Horton
I am saddened to hear of your loss of your friend and business associate Rob. He will be missed. Some how I thought he would beat this thing.. He instilled that kind of confidence. Thank you for contacting me.
– Eric Smith
I received the notice about Rob. The hang gliding commuty in Rio, specialy the old pilots, who had a chance to know Rob, wants to send our condolence to the Wills Wing family, and express our feelings. Gob Bless him
– Paulo Falcão – Brazil
I want to express my sincere condolences for the passing of Rob. The challenges, growth and successes in hang gliding would have never been as great without Rob. Rob was truly young at heart and a great representative for our sport. I will miss him. My thoughts to his family.
– Bob Trampenau
Brian Porter and I were very glad we got to see Rob when we stopped by 2 months ago. He had been through hell with his recent head injury and we were both amazed to find him at work and in such overall good spirits. We talked for well over an hour about everything that had been going on with his health and the hang gliding business. Even then I could begin to feel how much the hang gliding community would lose when he was gone. He was always apologizing to me about Wills Wing not building our rigid wing and this always confused me because none of us at Bright Star ever had any bad feelings or regrets about the project. I always respected Wills Wing’s approach to business and felt that your team had made a thorough evaluation of the design and its market potential. I guess Rob felt worse about it than any of us did, he was simply being too kind! I hope there will at least be an article in the magazine about Rob, it would be a great way to honor him and all that he did for our sport. Perhaps someone will organize an event or a memorial in his honor. If this happens, please let us know so we can contribute. Please send our sympathies to his family and everyone at Wills Wing.
– Steve Morris
Wow! I knew it was coming. I made the trip to WW Days in Florida this spring for two days to say “HI” and, without saying so, “Goodbye” to Rob. He was in such great spirits! An absolute trooper! The anguish was more apparent on Trish’s face and she was pretty direct about how rough it had been for them going through the “process”. So many people have stories to tell about Rob. For me, though I started flying in 1975 and got my first WW glider in maybe ’78 ??(an Alpha), Rob was ALWAYS part of flying. Price (Chris) was my first contact with the oldest WW names but Rob was really the person for me. It’s unbelievably sad. The sport has lost a great person and a great personality. I wonder if Wills would set up a page for remembrances of Rob. Already on our Vermont Hanggliding Association Forum the stories are just pouring out. And not all from old gray hairs like me but from young, new pilots too. It’s impressive and I would think everyone intimately involved with Rob would enjoy glancing through that type of remembrance page. Just a thought. All my best to you all at Wills.
– Peter P. Kelley
We were all extremely privileged to know Rob. Simply put- he was an amazing guy. There was nothing he couldn’t do… and with a smile on his face no less. He always, always, ALWAYS had time to chat, about anything, whether you were a world famous comp pilot or you just took your first tandem flight. His friendly open demeanor and pure charisma made it easy to love the guy… Oh, and he flew pretty good, too! This could honestly be one of hang gliding’s biggest losses of all time… Rob, you will be missed by the many people who’s lives you made better, just by being you… To Trish and Rob’s family and friends, I wish you all the strength in the world…
– Ryan Voight
To Tricia, Mike, Steve, Linda and all of Rob’s family. I last saw Rob and Tricia at the Santa Cruz flats and they were excited about a new holisitc approach Rob was taking to beating his cancer. He was in good spirits and seemed a very happy person. What strength he had. Both he and Tricia were real upbeat and that is how I will always remember Rob. He will be sorely missed by anyone who knew him.
– Glen Volk
I am so sad Rob had to leave us to circle up into better lift and I can imagine how difficult it must be for you all. I share your sorrow and my prayers are for Trish and everyone there. I met Rob once there at the factory visiting and once at a demo days in Arizona and felt the energy radiating from him when he handed me a Talon with that smile and told me what to watch out for. I almost bought it right there and then (my wife stopped me). I now totally expect all souls to be flying Wills Wing designs by the time I cross over to that dimension as everyone flies a hang glider in my vision of heaven.
– Larry West
Dan Armstrong dropped me an email and told me about Rob’s passing last Friday. Know that I am deeply saddened by the news, and wish you, Linda, Steve, and the Wills family all the best during this tough time. Rob had a unique combination of integrity, competitiveness, and natural talent. I will always member him as the hanggliding pioneer he was, pulling loops in the Harrier, and his infectious smile. I last saw him at the demo-days at Lookout Mountain just before I moved to Norway. How I wished now that I had stayed an extra day to have the chance to have talked with him around the fire that evening…
– Mark West – Norway
To the Wills Wing team and Rob’s family, Please accept my condolences and I wish for all friends a lot of courage afterwards.
– Michel Mallinjoud – France
Really sad to hear this, please receive my most sincere condolences.
– Juaki – Spain
My sincerest condolences on Robs passing. I will always have the fondest memories of a truly good friend and he will never be forgotten. Hang gliding will not be the same without him.
– Ray Leonard
My heart hurts. Rob was helpful to me for flying and for Towing Aloft. But his wisdom was especially sage during my years on the USHGA board. His awareness and foresight of how programs, events, equipment, training, marketing and the like would influence the sports was unmatched. He was tremendously more influential achieving the current state of the industry than most pilots would ever guess. It was a joyful pleasure to know him and an honor to receive his counsel. I miss him. The Wills Wing family is in my prayers. I can’t see to type any more.
– Bill Bryden
I was so sad to hear about Rob’s passing. I will always remember his professionalism, knowledge and integrity, always with a big caring heart. It was a privilege to have known him. My deepest condolences to the whole Wills Wing team from me and all the pilots in Argentina who were lucky enough to meet him. His family will be in my prayers. The Hang Gliding world will never be the same without him. He will be deeply missed.
– Javier F. Claramunt
Thank you for letting me know. I understand – it just won’t be the same without him, but I know you will keep everything going because we all need you. I will keep you and your family as well as the Kells family in my prayers.
– Cindy Windsor
I was shocked and saddened to hear the news about Rob’s death. I recall him mentioning his challenges in passing, but as always, the conversations always turned back to flying. No offense to the Wills Wing crew, but I secretly hoped to have Rob pick up the phone when I called. He was always energetic, and would do anything he could to help get myself, or others, into the air. As is often the case for those of us who soar, it is rare thing to find people who truly share our passion, and understand all that we due to pursue it. Rob was one such person, and you could tell that in an instant. He helped me make flying my living for over a decade, and I am eternally grateful for that. If I remember correctly, he was there, at Torrey Pines to see me win the three day race on a glider he was importing. Coming from a family that does not share my love of soaring, Rob served for me as a sort of father and friend as I managed my own emotions through that event. He was also there for me when friends and former students died doing what we both loved to do so much. He could always offer understanding and perspective on such matters, and it is only now that I can understand how he could understand such matters so deeply. I still have the letter of congratulations from that race, drawn up by Mitch, and signed by all those at Wills Wing, Rob included. I am now sure I will keep that letter forever. One day I will face a difficult decision in flight or life: to press on, or to turn back. To choose the safe thing, or to go for it. Either way I choose, my choice will be for Rob, or because of him. While this may seem a paradox to many, to honor and teach both safety and risk, Rob most certainly understood this. I have never had a mentor who counseled me so much in so few conversations. We may have spoken only a few dozen times, shaken hands only once, but his influence over my flying is pronounced. I hope, over the rest of my flying career, to meet just one person like him. I know however that the chances of this are slim. I feel a void in knowing that I can no longer pick up the phone and tap into that wisdom. I feel that we all share a void that will never be truly filled, but we will take to the skies just the same, searching for the Gospel according to Lift as best we can.
– Josh Meyers
Rob: You give the better. Some day we going to fly all together again. See you later.
– Alejandro Díez Pinto – Guatemala
Mike and all…we hope you accept our condolences in regards to Rob’s passing. We knew Rob for most of the 35 yrs..W W has been around…please post a memorial when you all get a chance..
– Ron & Michelle Travali
Rob Kells the worlds best all around hang glider pilot and President of Wills Wing died of prostrate cancer on Sat Aug 9th at fifty three years old. He competed in aerobatic, cross country and speed hang gliding. He was TATUM VIDEOS greatest extreme action sports star and my friend. He flew in,helped write and narrate six films spanning 1981 to 2004 including the 1981 icon sports film DOUBLE HIGH and the video DARE DEVIL FLYERS THE LEGENDS. These films and videos were shown in theaters, on TV and in home video in the USA,Australia, NZ,Canada,Japan, UK,France,Italy, Israel, THE US INFORMATION AGENCY USA reading rooms,and in many other countries. He tirelessly promoted hang gliding and paragliding world wide. WILLS WING is the only USA manufacturer of hang gliders and the leading inovator in the sport. He will be missed by the TATUM VIDEO production crews and his spirit will guide us everyday.
– Tom Tatum
Our hearts go out to the Wills Wing organization and to Rob’s family. The Borradaile family considered Rob to be a good friend, and we were always happy to have him as our house guest. He will be missed by us, as well as the rest of the hang gliding community.
– George, Susie, Tyler and Paul Borradaile – Canada
Thank you for letting us know of Rob’s passing and we fully understand and share your loss and sadness at this time. Our thoughts and prayers are with you at this time. Kind Regards
– Rob and Kate Lithgow – Australia
Hello, It is too sad to be true. My sincere condolence! Rob, rest in peace !
– Manoel Navarro Filho – Brazil
My heartfelt sympathy to you all. Thank you for the phone call. It meant I was in meditation ‘with’ Rob. I felt he was at peace and wished him a gentle passing and auspicious rebirth. Be well.
– Michael Robertson
Very bad news. Rob came to my home ten years ago and that was a very important moment for me. Rob you will stay in my memory, have a very nice last flight. Linda, Mike and Steve, thank you for continuing your job with the same spirit. I’m with you.
– Jean Luc Boué
My deepest & most heartfelt sympathies to all of you. I just can’t adequately express my feelings & sympathy for you his closest friends throughout the years. I learned that Rob had left us from George through Andy & Mike’s e-mail. I was teaching a ground school to 10 students Saturday & had real trouble keeping it together & kept tearing up during the day. The students seemed to be understanding & somehow I persevered. This is a profound personal loss to me & I just can’t imagine how you three are keeping it together & how Trish & George must be feeling. May your spirits somehow continue to soar!!!!
– Wally Anderson
God be with you and all your family members.
– Adrian Gomez – Mexico
I remember like as now the first time I met Rob in Bassano some years ago. He was a dream for me like as you at Wills Wing…….I remember that finally I did meet one of the special people at Wills Wing. I’m thinking again regarding Hang Gliding life, like as a different life from normal days and for this I’m continuing to make assistance and sales for Wills Wing……….my life. I’m very sorry but I want to think that Rob will continue to help my dream, my HG life and all I need to continue. This night probably will be as bad a night for me as when my father passed away. Please give all my condolences to his wife and to all of you. An embrace…
– Franco Rinaldi – Italy
Great guy great pilot and we shall all miss his courage as a human in the face of his illness.
– Eves Tall Chief
Good night Rob. Thanks for all the great advice and thanks for sharing your fight with all of us. It is greatly appreciated and you will be missed.
– Allison Baumhefner
I called to see if WW would rent me a glider just like mine at a demo day, so I could drive my convertible to it. Rob gave me a great route to take from LA to Flagstaff, and that trip has alway been very substantial in my memories — scenery, things that got thought out. I appreciate the person Rob was, and his entering into that with a stranger on a routine call, conveying his sense about the various places. My sympathies to all his loved-ones. It was very nice to be so warmly welcomed by him and his wife that day in AZ.
– Freddy Wagner
Rob Kells. A pilots pilot. Rob could fly a picnic table and make it look good. Rob was the most naturally gifted sales person I ever met and I have met a lot of them as a buyer for Wills Wing for going on 28 years. Rob could sell you a dead dog and make you feel good about the deal. Infectious enthusiasm,a never say no attitude,a tremendous spirit. Gone but not forgotten.
– Rick Zimbelman
I’m so sorry. Such a lovely person. I’m as well so sorry for you all. For his family. So sad. My heart is with you all, Linda.
– Thierry Blatti – Switzerland
I received the email from Linda regarding Rob’s passing away. I want to remember Rob as he was when I met him, and when I knew him. He will be always in my memory as a very special person with great charisma and friendship. My condolences to his familiy, to all of you at Wills Wing and to his friends. BR Francesco
– Francesco Rinaldi
I met Rob at a Grouse Mountain, Canada competition in the late 80’s on top of the hill, he was a very cordial, and easy person to talk to. Followed his career since the 1980 video, LOOK TO THE SKY was released, and was always an admirer of his communication skills, and flying ability. I’m saddened to hear of his passing, thoughts and prayers to the family and Wills Wing. Virgil Dahrens, Troutdale, Or.
– Virgil Dahrens
Who are the roving stalwarts of hang gliding now, a pile of gliders stacked high, pulling into the LZ? Sitting on the tail gate of that red truck, in the shade of the trees, Robs warm personality made you feel relaxed and welcome in the midst of the competition. Ready to lend you some batten string, a smoke, or just a smile. Hanging out with Rob felt good. We will miss him. Peace and Love to Rob his Family and Friends, Henry Bittner, San Francisco
– Henry Bittner
I am so sorry. It´s hard to think we will not see Rob at flying sites all over giving advice and helping pilots and being the great friend he was. How sad to keep losing friends.
– Ricardo Rouco – Uruguay
While I no longer fly, the hang gliding community, or should I say family, is still a major part of who I am. Rob, and Wills Wing, was a strong part of that family. I feel a loss, and feel for you as you struggle to handle the loss of your family member. Many memories come flooding in, all of course with that typical Rob Kells smile. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the good times we all had at Guadalupe Dunes in 1982 at the Otto Lilienthal Meet. He has reached the ultimate cloudbase!
– Randy Cobb
To Trish and the Wills Wing family, I was so sorry to hear about Rob’s passing. I will always remember Rob’s passion and enthusiasm for life and I will miss hearing his stories of daring-do and survival from the early days of hang gliding. I posted this on HangGliding.org website (http://www.hanggliding.org/) where several pilots have also posted their condolences: From the movie, “Braveheart” – Every man dies, not every man really lives.” Rob Kells lived a great life. By his own account, he cheated death on more than one occasion. He was a positive force in our world and will be missed by those of us that he left behind, but I prefer to celebrate his life, rather than mourn his death. And perhaps we will meet him again behind the veil. In the night of death, hope sees a star, and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing. – Robert Ingersoll –
– Jim Rowan
Well, it’s been almost a week since we learned of Rob’s passing. Each time I think of him it brings tears to know he isn’t around anymore. It’s hard to imagine the world of hang gliding withour Rob in it. I’ve been at it since 1975 and it feels like Rob was always a part of it. He was a SUPER salesman in the finest sense of the word. His enthusiasm was infectious, everyone was his friend and his gift was making you feel like you were the only person that mattered when you were talking with him even though he was a constant motion machine. I am glad I made the trip to Wills Wing Days this Spring at Wallaby and got to see him one last time. Thank God Rob found Trish. My thoughts go out to her and all of our extended Hang Family at Wills and all around the globe.
– Peter Kelley
Rob,… what a full life you have had. We can’t find the words to adequately express how grateful we are at having known you for the past 30 years. You, my friend, are far larger than any words can describe. Thank you for everything you have done,… for us, for hang gliding/ paragliding, and for the countless family of pilots you have spent a lifetime helping. And please take this as a compliment. Knowing how good a salesman you are, we expect another run on Wills Wing sales as the angels start placing orders. love, your friends, Dianne and Rob McKenzie
– Dianne and Rob McKenzie
What a heartbreaker… I went to WW Daze at Wallaby Ranch this year SPECIFICALLY to see/be with Rob (and Trish)… Despite his very dire circumstances he was generous and classic in his genuine attention to his friends/customers and interaction with fellow pilots… I know he was dealing with much pain/medication and certainly some deep emotions but he was energized, laughing often, reminiscing heartily and occasionally prayerful… I witnessed him working/playing hard as was his usual fashion… I have some wonderful personal memories, a few photos and deep respect/appreciation for Rob… In my opinion Rob Kells is one of the hang gliding GREATS, one of my heroes and one exemplary individual… I believe Rob experienced/contributed and ‘lived’ more in his nearly 53 years than most who have much more… Rob set a very high bar of excellence and as he graced our cherished avocation… Thank you Rob… I love/will miss and try to honor YOU and what you have done for me and my friends’/favorite past-time(s)… Dude
– Scott Leonard and Family…
I am so sorry to hear this as we prayed much for him and will continue to pray for his wife and family, as well as the whole Wills Wing team at this difficult time. Our most sincere condolences are extended to all of you.
– Pete van den Berg – Republic of South Africa
I’m very saddened at the passing of a guy I only met maybe three times, but to say he was personable is a huge understatement. I was thinking of him when I got my PSA levels checked a few weeks ago, unaware that his cancer had progressed so far. Godspeed, Rob. You made a difference.
– Mark Kowalsky – Canada
Please pass on my deepest condolences to the Wills Wing family. Also, please send my sincerest sympathy to Trish; I do not have any way of contacting her right now.
– Felipe Amunategui
Our hearts are with you and all of the Wills Wing family during this time of sadness. While I never met Rob myself, I have heard many wonderful stories of him over the years. Ken de Russy was just sharing some fond memories, of his early days flying and planning with Rob at our training hill in SB during the first days. Rob’s is a life and an impact on history to be proud of. In Sadness,
– Lee Anne and Chad Bastian
Linda, please know that you, Mike, Steve, and all the gang at Wills Wing are in our thoughts and prayers. Rob was a wonderful and kind friend to so many people in this ol’ world that I’m sure he will be missed by all. I was just thinking this morning, I’ve known and respected him for more than 30 years now. Please let us know what the arangements will be. In sorrow,
– Doug Lawton
I was realy sorry to hear the sad news about Rob. Please send my deepest condolences to his wife and family. We will always think and remember him.
– Yaron Levin – Israel
Mark Windsheimer informed me today of Robs passing. I knew of his illness and of his fight to overcome the cancer that finally took his life. Still, the news of his passing was a shock. I first met Rob in the mid 80s at one of the Telluride hang gliding festivals. We talked about glider design and the flying characteristics of different Wills gliders. I looked up to him – I was enamored with his knowledge and experience with hang gliding. We were not best friends, but acquaintances that met and talked each time our paths crossed. My life and my hang gliding experiences are forever influenced by Rob. I am deeply sorry for the loss of Rob. Please accept my deepest sympathy to all at Wills Wing and also to his wife, Tricia. He had a big influence on me personally and to all long time hang glider pilots around the world. I will never forget the photo of Rob on the front page of Hang Gliding Magazine many years ago of him in a vertical dive on a Raven above an airport. I’d like the USHPA publish one of his flying photos and a memoriam in the magazine to honor his memory.
– Rich Jesuroga
I want to extend my condolences to you and the Wills gang. Jeff Shapiro informed me saturday after the last task and Jeff made a very warm and tasteful announcement at the awards ceremony. After the ceremony there were several festive toasts to Rob 🙂 as we all believed that is what Rob would have liked. I think Rob would have been very pleased with your team in Big Spring. They flew well and they flew well together which I know would make Rob happy and proud.
– Steve Kroop
Please accept the condolences of all the Guatemalan pilots. We shall miss Rob.
– Fernando Linares – Guatemala
I am so sorry to hear about this. Rob looked pretty ok to me this past April. I had no idea he was as sick as he was. I mean…I heard and read and knew stuff but….he just looked a little tired. And who wouldn’t be after a big to-do down at Wallaby. The sport of hanggliding has lost a real good guy, a real talent and an amazing man. We are all better for having known him.
– Richard, Leigh and Alex Hays
Please extend my deapest sympathies to Rob’s family and to all of you who were close to him, and had a chance to share your lives with him.
– Randy Hurtado – Colombia
Rob’s influence was what made Wills Wing a great company. Of all the WW corporate triumverate, Rob was by far the most personable and would take the time to advise and encourage pilots without being condescending. It is little known what an enthusiastic and talented pilot Rob was, as well. I mourn his passing and will miss him.
– Rodger Hoyt
So sorry to hear of Rob’s passing. Our family will remember him in our prayers and hold all of you, his extended Wills Wing family, in our thoughts.
– Steve, Kim, Dan, and Jaime Arndt
I remember that Rob was my room-mate over at 814 Mantle Lane there in Tustin. I knew Rob to be a really fun person to be around. He really did come into Wills Wing and help put the company back up on its feet. I for one am very sad to hear about friends that are taken by Cancer. I was saying a prayer just last evening for Rob as I heard about his failing health from another former employee who e-mailed me about Rob. I found out about his passing today on the Website for Wills Wing and just wanted to send off this comment to you guys to say that I’m deeply saddened to hear about Rob and hope that he will have a big Framed Picture of him flying as you enter the company building there in Orange as it will be a great tribute to a super owner and very good Hang-Glider pilot who was always promoting the sport. So from One ole Hang-Glider pilot to another, Keep that BIG THERMAL in the sky Rob and continue to set the World Distance record up there as you look down upon us enjoying the thermals down here. The only difference is, your thermals are stronger and last a whole lot longer then the ones down here buddy….
– David Vincent
My deepest sympathies to all the fine folks at Wills Wing for the loss of someone who made so much of it happen.
– Gary Osoba
We sincerely regret Rob’s passing, understanding that he was much more than a colleague or a friend for all of you. Also we wish you strength, realising that Rob’s death leaves a wound that hopefully time can heal. Our thoughts are especially with Trish, hoping she will get the support and help she needs in the time to come. We will never forget Rob!
– Ton Draaijer and Diederik Meeusen – The Netherlands
The pilots at Flyranch were all deeply saddened to hear about Rob Kells death, although most of us did not get to know him in person, we all feel very grateful for what he did for our beloved sport. We send you our condolences and please let us know if we can help in any way.
– Flavio Galliusi – Argentina
My deepest condolences to all at Wills Wing. I remember working with Rob and all of you when you were importing Swing. Rob always helped me with any issues I had to promote the gliders. I wish the best for all of you and Rob’s family.
– Greg Kelley
It was hard to hear of Robs condition, (Eyes are tearing as I type )but I’m glad the waiting and uncertainty is over.. I can’t tell you how much I now wish I’d come to Wallaby to see you guys … It would have been nice to have seen Rob’s infectious smile one last time… 😎 Not getting to say good by is the most painful part for me… But I have faith that I will meet up with him in the future and in that I can take comfort… We WILL Gaggle up once again.. 😎
– Mark Vaughn
I feel really sad and speechless, all the flying community in Colima feels sad and send you big hugs. We think to you guys and to the family of Rob, please let them know we are by our thoughts with them. We will still have for ever the memory of Rob as a strong guy fighting for life and for the sport.
– Gilles Arfeuille – Mexico
I’m holding you all in my prayers as I read this and tears roll down my checks. I returned home from Tustin last night after being in CA since July 23rd. I had thought to come by to say Hi, but as I didn’t have a car, I didn’t arrange for it. I have never had a friend for as long as you four have been friends; one whom I have known, worked with, lived with, loved, for as long as you all have been together. I can’t imagine how hard this is. I know he has wonderful people all over the globe who will miss him, and will be there to remind you and his girls, his sisters and sweet Mom, of wonderful stories of the way he touched people. You are absolutely wonderful to have written to me. I thank you from my heart. Love to each of you. Will you please pass my prayers and hugs on to his family. I am so glad he had Trish. She must be an angel.
– Alison Dillemuth
I was in California in early May for two weeks, and missed seeing Rob Kells….. First met him when he came to Grandfather Mountain, and enjoyed twanging him off the front side elevator launch style…. Over the years when I have seen him more than a few times, and wanted to write you guys and gals at Wills Wing and let you know how fortunate it was to know him… Rob was an Ambassador to the Sport, and a real champion in life, really a kewl guy…. I’m sorry to hear the news from the Oz about Rob… Hope you are well, stay strong, and keep your head up even though you have lost one of your best friends…. Love all of you at WW, even though I fly Sensors, know you all are missing your dear friend and teammate……..keep your heads up……………Rob lived his life strong and positive, stay that way at WW…….always.
– Dave Thompson
This is a very sad time for us all. Rob was an incredible person, so full of life, it is hard to imagine he is gone. I am deeply sorry for your loss and I feel empty. When someone like Rob leaves us we think the world will never be the same, but as time goes on we will make all of the adjustments in our lives to accept his departure. I want you to know my heart goes out to you guys and to Rob’s family and I am thinking about all of you. I can’t imagine what my life would have been without the experience I had at Wills Wing and having all of you as friends. Please accept my deepest condolences.
– Keith Blaylock
Sincere condolence from Czech Republic. Just last week at the Open Championship in Slovakia we were thinking of Rob and wishing for him that he can cope with it..
– Albert Schneider and Jiri Kalivoda – Czech Republic
I am so sorry to hear about the loss of Rob. He was a good man, a good person. I remember Rob contacting me when I was sponsored by Wills Wing and working for you and Swing. It was an honor to work for the most elite HG manufacturing company in the world. A privelage to work with Rob and all of you. I will keep you and Rob’s family in my thoughts this coming week and will make a memorial flight off Chelan with him in my mind because you know that’s what Rob would want us to do.
– Joe Gluzinski
I am so, so sorry to hear that we’ve lost Rob. Of all the hang gliding news that I see, I’ve been so pleased in recent years to hear of fewer and fewer deaths in our sport. An achievement in which you should all take great credit and pride. Now, I suppose, we’re all getting to the stage where we begin losing our friends to other causes. A bittersweet tradeoff brought painfully to light with Rob’s death. Rob was, perhaps, the finest American ambassador to the sport of hang gliding that ever was. His commitment to the safety, integrity, and promotion of our sport is unsurpassed and is overshadowed only by the greater quality of his commitment to his friendships with all of us – his sky brothers and sisters. I am very happy and proud that I knew Rob and shared a few really fine moments with him. I’ll treasure those memories as they bring a smile to my face through my tears. I’m with you all in spirit.
– Dudley Mead
My thoughts are with you all.
– Don Glass
Sad news about Rob. I had seen Rob on and off since the early 80’s and he was a great, likeable guy. Always happy and a story to tell. Our thoughts are with Rob’s family, the Wills team and friends. As I’m sure Rob would want I hope you guys keep going as strong as ever.
– Rick Duncan – Australia
We are deeply saddened by the news. I feel like I knew Rob though I’d only met him a few times in person. I’ve read Rob’s articles and spoke to him many times on the phone. He was always ready to help me when I had questions. At demo days too Rob was always informative patient and fun to be around. There there are many hanggliding pioneers but Rob Kells ranks at the top. Pilots everywhere owe many thanks to Rob, Hang Gliding and Para Gliding would not be where it is today with out Rob’s energy, passion and hard work for the sport. Wills Wing is a great company, I’m honored to be associated.
– Eric & Celia Mies
I feel so sorry myself about that. It´s too bad I have never had the opportunity to meet such a nice guy. My sincere sorrows.
– Max Turiaco – Italy
We are so sorry to hear of Rob’s passing. Whenever we spent time with him, on many occasions over the years, we always enjoyed his openness, optimism, and genuine friendliness. His loss to all of us is indeed inexpressible. We will always remember Rob fondly, and we extend our sad condolences.
– Peter and Naomi Gray
What an incredible loss! Rob was the coolest person I ever knew. He defined Hang Gliding for me and I always looked up to him as a celebrity. Mike, you and Steve were always the wizards who built the incredible flying machines, but Rob always sold them!!! I, like all pilots, listen to him define the glider… what would make us better pilots if we just bought one! I don’t know how many times I fell under his spell, and when I flew one of your beautiful gliders I was just in love! From the SST’s I used for training, and the 177 Harrier to my present Tandem Falcon, he and all of you brought love into my life and I will be forever grateful. My wife, Angelica, was so thankful that in his busy life he took the time to show her all about your business and hang gliding – he just loved to to that, and she knew this from only the one time she meet him. Thank you sincerely and our heart is with you at this time.
– John Ryan
We’re all deeply moved by this sad event. I met Rob in Funston back in 1980 when I spend a glorious couple of years going to school in Berkeley. I remember his advice and prefly cool down up in Yosemite on our first flight and the mass attendance at the early Owens Valley meets where the largest assembly of pilots from all over the world gathered, where Rob was always a gentleman and a friend keeping us all out of trouble with logic and reasoning. We flew Hull Mt., Milpitas, Tamalpais, among others and had always a great time. May he fly forever in our hearts ……………
– Omar Suarez – Venezuela
Condolences on the loss of Rob. It is fortunate that you have been working with such a great man and friend as Rob. Rob has certainly used his time to make a difference in the world and he will be missed. Wishing you and the Wills Wing team all the best, your loss is shared.
– Scott Barrett – Australia
Very sad and irreparable. A hug for the family Wills Wing.
– Nader Couri – Brazil
I read your message with deep regret. My heart sunk when I saw the subject as, like many hang gliding pilots, I had a fundamental awareness of Rob’s condition. Such news is very difficult to read and even more difficult to send. Though we’d been out of contact too much in recent years while Light-Sport Aircraft diverted my attention from hang gliding, the years I spent in hang gliding will always be the source of some of my fondest memories and Rob Kells was a favorite — and larger-than-life — figure in those memories. This has been a difficult year of loss. My best friend died in May, succumbing to his battle with a different kind of cancer. Any my mother just died on July 27th. Rob’s passing adds to the challenges this year has brought and I am very sorry to bid him a final goodbye. However, he was blessed in many way and some of the very best — besides his family, of course — are the three of you. In my mind, you will always be the “Fantastic Four” of Wills Wing. My sincerest condolences for the loss of your friend and partner. He was a fine man I feel deeply privileged to have known.
– Dan Johnson & Randee Laskewitz
Wow, I am so sorry. I can only imagine the grief you all must be feeling, what a great loss to you and all of hang gliding. Rob was an inspiration to all whether they fly WW gliders or not, always with a smile and always ready to talk and help whomever needed it. I just hope you all can adjust to a life without Rob. Can you believe that after the life Rob led with all his extreme flying of all kinds, that cancer is what took him from all of us; this is so sad. I truly feel for all of you.
– Greg Black
I am really sad to learn of Rob’s passing. I know you all have many great memories of him to think of and help get you through the days ahead. Everyone he touched will remember him as a good man and a great contributor to our sport.
– Dave Wills
I’m really sorry that I did not know how far his cancer had gone.Our time here seems so short. I wish we all could make as big as an impact in the world while we are here as he did.
– Chris Price
Please accept our deepest sympathies over Rob’s passing. He was a great person and we will truly miss his presence to our sport and circle of friends.
– David Jebb
My heart aches……. I just feel fortunate to have been a part of Robs life. Even though I wasn’t that good (compared to the “Good” guys) He had faith in me, promoted me and gave me good stuff to fly… If you believe in life after life….Rob is one of the guys I’ll really look forward to seeing again. I’m sad today………….(But Rob would have been the 1st one to figure out a way to “spin” it into something good). He was a Goliath in my world. We are all lucky to have crossed his path.
– Jon Szarek
We’re very saddened to hear of Rob’s passing. The sport and everyone he ever came in contact with has lost a friend.
– Bob Beck
My condolences to all you fine people at WW — my heart goes out to you all. Rob touched so many of us in such a positive way. He did so much for the bettering, safety and improvement of the sport and was motivating to many of us in the hang gliding business world. His enthusiasm and positive energy was contagious. I am honored to call him my friend. He will be deeply missed.
– Matt Taber
This is sad news indeed. I’m reading an email you (Rob) sent me (regarding an order/and some advice) not too long ago, May 7th to be exact. 3 months ago. I would never have guessed that you were so seriously ill. I assumed that you were responding positive to treatment. How wrong was I. You were one of the people on my list whom I would’ve been honored to meet. Sadly this will not happen soon. Maybe one day… To the Wills Wing Team and your family, my condolences.
– Jáco Herbst – Taiwan
Thank you for the notification of Rob’s passing. I can’t tell you how sad it made me feel to read your email, but I know that it is far more difficult for you three to deal with your loss. Rob was a unique guy of boundless energy, who always treated me as a friend and I will surely miss his positive outlook and infectious smile. I’m glad to hear of your decision to continue with WW, as I’m sure Rob wanted.
– Greg DeWolf
Please accept and convey my condolences to Mr. Kells family, although i did not have the chance to meet him personally, i dealt with him by phone several times. He was very professional and kind. May god bless him.
– William Ayoub – Lebanon
I am shocked and so sorry to hear that Rob has gone. A gentleman , a pioneer , and leader of our super sport, I will miss him with my broken dream who I would like bring to Viet Nam and to be proud to introduce him to my land. The sky now is missing a great eagle wing and his shadow. Rob’s image will always print in my mind and my heart. I am now away from the other side of the world but I and all members of Mkparaglinding & Hang gliding Associated Viet Nam will be with Rob Kells and his family. We wish him well and be with God always . His mission in earth world is completed but we know his mission in the other side, the Heaven, will continue always.
– Trac Ngo – Viet Nam
My heart is heavy. I trust that Trish has loved ones around her and that you all find comfort in the friendship you have developed over the years. He will remain in my mind a truly special man and I thank God for allowing me to meet him.
– Ricker Goldsborough
So sorry. Rob was in the thoughts and prayers of many yesterday at Ellenville.
– Dan Guido.
I have no words to express my feelings nor have I words to sooth your loss. I just want to say Rob was not only part of Willswing, he was not just a business partner to us, he was a hero for many pilots of my generation who saw him through his HG career as an example to to follow and imitate. Our prayers will be with him and all of you now and everytime we take to the air.
– Rafael and Fausto – Wills Ecuador
Sorry to read about Rob Kells death. Please accept condolences from every one in our office. May God grant you the patience and the courage to bear this loss.
– Owais Iftikhar and every one at ‘Sky Gliders’ in Pakistan
I am so sorry. I loved Rob,he was a great guy,I grieve with you,our community has suffered a great loss. With love,
– Teddy Mack
I am so sorry to hear about Rob. I was not aware that he was losing the battle. He will be missed by all.
– Charlie Baughman
I can’t believe it. I had so much faith in Rob’s ability to do anything he set his mind to that I actually expected he would beat this. How stupid I was not to talk to Rob again. I spoke to Rob when I first heard of his illness. I was shaken to know my hero was facing such a serious challenge and found myself thinking of all the times I placed my complete trust in him. I realized that if I ever had to go back into combat that there were two people I would follow there without reservation. One is a former student of mine from Santa Barbara, Greg Steele, a retired Marine Colonel. Greg went to West Point and transferred into the Marines and became a Cobra pilot flying missions in Nam. The other person I would follow is Rob. Rob had me convinced he could do anything. I am so sorry for your loss. I know how much you and Linda and Steve and so many others cared for Rob. I know Rob’s family will struggle with his loss.
– Ken de Russy
My thoughts are with you all right now, and his family. I am so so sorry for your loss. We will keep you all in our thoughts and prayers as you grieve the loss of your friend.
– Kay Tauscher
He will greatly missed.He was the common thread that will take a long time to be recongnized. Somebody might do his job, and someone will, but not as he did. I am glad to call him friend and not just a business associate. Again he will be greatly missed and god speed to him as he will not have to suffer anymore.
– Ben Burril
We are very sorry to hear about Rob Kells’s untimely death. He was a remarkable manager end excellent engineer with warm heart. I’d like to ask you to express our condolences to his family and to all staff at Wills Wing for the loss of such a wonderful man. I had the honour and the pleasure to know him personally. I had the greatest respect for Rob and will miss working with him, his generous nature and sharing his passion for the sky sport. Him and his family are in our thoughts and prayers.
– Alexander Voronin and Aeros team – Ukraine
I will remember Rob as very generous man who believed deeply in our sport and someone that highly contributed to make it better. I always remember the day when I came visit you for the 1st time at the Wills Wing factory back in 1998 where I met you all. I was about to fly my first “big” international competition ever: The US Nationals at Lakeview, Oregon. It was the time of the Fusion, a great glider, ‘unveiled’ to me on that fist day of my visit. Rob was never short of words of enthusiasm. During our conversations since day one, he transmitted his passion for this great sport we all love. For instance, nobody had spoken to me about ballast before but he took the time to explain the importance of the right pilot weight on a glider to get the best of its performance. Rob made me feel confident with some concepts I was just discovering at that time, and we also had a nice talk about the glider recently developed. It was my first time flying a kingpost-less glider; a day I will never forget. And Rob made it much better. All in all, I believe Rob was an important part of my evolution as a competition/recreational pilot and I will deeply miss him. My deep condolences to all of you.
– Luis RIZO-SALOM – Spain
To the Wills Wing Family, On behalf of the whole Moyes Family, I would like to offer our most heartfelt condolences for your loss. Though I only met Rob personally for the first time last year in Texas. His reputation for his passion and enthusiasm for our sport has always been something I have envied and admired. His passing is a profound loss for hang gliding. Our thoughts are with you all at this sad time.
– Vicki Cain – Australia
I am very saddened to hear of Rob’s passing. The Sport has lost someone special. Please know that you are all in our thoughts and prayers. Wills has always been a class act, and I know Rob was a huge part of that. The best to all of you.
– Zeph Gruis
I kinda feared this news despite the open title. Rob and yourselves have been a friendly, helpful team and the effort and knowledge going into achieving this is a tribute to you all for which I’m most grateful. Please accept my sympathies.
– Kevin Rooke – New Zealand
We are so sorry to hear about the loss of Rob Kells. He was one of the most powerful persons in our hanggliding world and we owe him today’s hanggliding success.
– Toshiyuki Katsura – Japan
Im not really sure if there’s something that one can say in this situation. Im really sorry to hear that, and I give you my most sincere condolences.
– Daniel Velez – Colombia
Rob’s an icon. We know that he lived more life than most people, but not nearly as much as he deserved. Our sincerest sympathies go out to you, his family, and the rest of his colleagues at Wills Wing. We are very sad tonight, and will miss him.
– Tracy Tillman and Lisa Colletti
Hi Linda, Mike and Steve, So sad to hear this, Rob was such a great guy. He will still be with us forever. All the best to you and Wills Wing.
– Achim Hagemann
Our sincere condolences Rob was a huge inspiration to so many including myself. He will be greatly missed but never forgotten. We will be sending much light to all of you at Wills Wing. Peace
– Randy Rauck – Canada
Each time we lose someone we care for, we end up losing a part of ourselvs too. May family members find the necessary strength to overcome their grief.
– Rita and Nene Rotor – Brazil
Thanks for the phone call, I’m sure it was hard, but I’d rather hear that kind of news from a friend. For many of us, Rob is more than Wills Wing, our world will be different without him in it…
– Russ and Connie Locke