Carroll Sinclair Adams was born on May 21, 1927, in Washington, D.C., the only child of Lulu Viola Lawson Adams and Carroll S. Adams. Raised on Vermont Street in Arlington, Virginia, he made his home in the Westover neighborhood for most of his adult life, marrying and raising a family there.
Carroll and his wife eventually retired to Cross Keys, Village, The Brethren Home Community in New Oxford, Pennsylvania, where he died on March 9, 2021. He passed while doing what he most loved in his later years — holding the hand of his beautiful wife, Cula Mae Messick Adams.
The 93 years in between his birth and his death were fully lived. Full of love, adventure, curiosity, family gatherings, endless activity, hugs, puns (good and bad), friends, spirited debates and stories, oh so many stories, most of them related to airplanes, and told to eager listeners he had just met and to those who had heard them a thousand times (but didn’t really mind hearing them again).
His adventures started early. At 17, Carroll volunteered to join the United States Navy during World War II, following in his mother’s footsteps, who also served in the Navy during World War I. He was sent to serve in the Pacific theater aboard merchant marine supply ships and later in the
occupation of Japan. After receiving an honorable discharge from active duty in 1946, he joined the United States Naval Reserve. He failed to mention this fact to his wife until he was recalled to serve aboard the USS Salem during the Korean conflict, only a few weeks after their wedding in 1950. She was still waiting for him when he returned home, but he chose not to press his luck further, ending his Navy career for a (slightly) more settled life. He remained proud of his service to his country throughout his life, and his family remains proud of him. Carroll will be buried with military honors; his casket draped in the same flag which adorned his mother’s.
The adventures which carried him through the rest of his life, however, started a bit earlier. Carroll was born to be an aviator. He arrived on this earth the same day Charles Lindbergh landed in Paris after completing the first nonstop trans-Atlantic flight. As Carroll told the story, his mother, after giving birth, did not ask if he was a boy or a girl, but rather, “Did Lindy make it?” more or less sealing Carroll’s fate of a lifetime in and around airplanes.
He pursued his passion early, learning to fly at the age of 16 through the Civil Air Patrol, delivering emergency blood supplies for the Red Cross. He occasionally stopped to court his future wife by landing his plane on her parents’ farm (no airfield required) and driving it up the lane to the house.
When Carroll could not stop for a visit, he tried dropping flowers, a romantic gesture that almost went wrong when the roses got stuck between the stick and the door, but he managed to pull it off and win her heart.
Carroll learned planes, and ultimately jet aircraft, inside and out,
becoming an A&P (Airframe and Powerplant) mechanic, eventually instructing A&P courses at what is now Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. With the encouragement and support of his wife, who asked that he stop talking about flying jets and actually do it, the family moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he attended the Spartan School of Aeronautics and acquired the skills to earn his FAA Commercial Pilot License and fly the jumbo jets of the day. And fly them he did, piloting cargo and people around the world for the next 30 years. He proudly flew the big blue ball of Pan American World Airways for 27 years and across five continents, ending his career in 1987 as a first officer flying his favorite jumbo jet, Boeing’s 747.
When Carroll wasn’t flying the big planes, he was busy flying, watching, fixing, building, or talking about the small ones. One of his most exciting aviation accomplishments was building a Corben Baby Ace, mainly in the family garage, from plans alone. He painted it International Orange with a Bahama Blue stripe so everyone could see it coming, and he joyfully flew and maintained it for nearly 40 years, donating it in 2015 to the Corben Sport Planes Museum in Georgia.
After retiring from Pan Am, he volunteered at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum for over ten years, employing his considerable knowledge in identifying aircraft in pictures and piecing together their histories. He maintained his private pilot’s license and flew into his 80s, was a member of the Silver Wings over Washington Fraternity, and a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association until his death. Carroll is memorialized on The National Air and Space Museum's Wall of Honor at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, recognition of his lifelong passion for flight.
Never one to sit still for very long, Carroll nurtured a sense of curiosity throughout his lifetime in pursuits that required skill, craftsmanship and care. He was an avid gardener famous for his dinner plate dahlias, curtains of moonflowers, prolific roses, chunky sweet tomatoes and even the occasional weed, which he just thought pretty enough to keep. Carroll was a woodworker, furniture builder, gun builder, model train collector, antique clock restorer and creator of the most intricate blown Easter egg designs. He never met an engine he didn’t like or couldn’t fix, and through his lifetime, he kept up with the technology advances, frequently facetiming his daughter or checking his aviation weather app on his iPad.
Carroll, also known as “Sinny,” “Daddy,” “Papa,” “Grandpa,” or sometimes just “The Airplane Guy,” was a social man who loved a good conversation. He relished being part of a group, whether it be a Christmas gathering in Midland, a Sunday Service at Central United Methodist Church in Arlington, of which he was a lifetime member, or a visit with the neighbors in Cross
Keys. Carroll was active in his community, campaigning for candidates and issues aligned with his conservative ideals. He often served as a voting volunteer and guest speaker at local schools where he taught elementary school students how an airfoil works using two air molecules he named "Mike" and "Ike." Carroll never shied away from politics and usually had
a strong opinion he’d be happy to debate, often at a favorite coffee shop, but it always stayed civil, and everyone parted still friends. He genuinely liked people, he enjoyed hearing their stories and sharing his own, and he made fast friends the world over.
However, what defined Carroll Sinclair Adams most, and what runs under and through everything that he was and did, was his love of his wife and his children. Carroll and Cula’s love story started in the late 1940s where they met through a mutual friend, and it never stopped evolving through their 71 years together. During that time, through the thick and thin, they forged a bond that was apparent to all who met them, so much so that couples have said how much they want to “be” a Carroll and Cula, to develop that kind of connection in their own marriages. To him, she was “the love of his life,” and to her, he was “the sweetest man on earth.” He always reached for her hand, and she always held his, up until his very last
That love does not die with his passing but lives on in his wife, and in his two children and their families, Susan Carol Adams and her husband, Crispin Robinson, and David Lawson Adams and his wife Anne Adams, along with their children and step-children, Christopher, Nicholas, Shaun, Zachary, Joshua, and Lily. “Papa” loved his children and was immensely proud of them and his grandchildren, not just because of their accomplishments but because they “turned out to be good people.”
Right back at you, Daddy. You will be missed and forever loved.
Carroll will be buried in a graveside service at The Midland Church of the Brethren at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 3. A celebration of life will be arranged at Cross Keys in New Oxford at a later date.
The Brethren Home Foundation, in support of The Good Samaritan Fund, welcomes donations in his memory, and may be sent to 2990 Carlisle Pike, New Oxford, Pa. 17350.
Condolences may be offered at www.moserfuneralhome.com