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The American Experience

New Concerns, Final Days

In the years following World War II, Charles Lindbergh remained pretty much out of the spotlight of American life. It was a position he preferred. Having never held a conventional nine-to-five job, Lindbergh was well-suited to the life of a free-lance consultant. His main clients were Pan American World Airways and the United States Air Force. By the 1950s, much of the antipathy felt toward him had faded. In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower restored him to the U.S. Air Force Reserve as a brigadier general.

His family expanded during these years to include five children. Since 1946, the Lindbergh clan had resided in Darien, Connecticut. The glare of media attention no longer dogged his family's every move. Though his work often took him away from home for long periods of time, his children recalled the time spent with their father as being loving and full of adventure. When not consulting for airlines, Lindbergh spent much of his time writing. He published his first book, "The Spirit of St. Louis," in 1953. It was a commercial and critical success, and won the Pulitzer Prize for biography. Some critics, in fact, felt it was so well-written that it must have come from the pen of his wife Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

As the years passed, Lindbergh began to give serious consideration to the effect modern technology was having on the environment. His boyhood roots were in the hills, forests, fields, and lakes of rural Minnesota, and through the 1960's he lamented the disappearance of wild and untamed places. A man who had always placed his faith in the mechanical and scientific worlds now warned against a growing "scientific materialism." His concern for ecology led him to make his first public speeches since World War II. He also granted his first press interview since the kidnapping of his son more than 30 years earlier. The private Lindbergh took a public stand on behalf of the planet. As a visible and vocal member of the World Wildlife Fund, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and The Nature Conservancy, Lindbergh worked to save endangered species and to establish conservation parks. His efforts resulted in the creation of Lindbergh State Park in Minnesota and Voyageurs National Park on the Canadian border.

In 1967 Lindbergh accepted the invitation of a friend to spend time on the Hawaiian island of Maui. Lindbergh was immediately captivated by the mountains, flora, and fauna surrounding him. To him, Maui was paradise: unspoiled by development and providing nearly uninterrupted privacy. He and Anne built a primitive alpine A-frame house near the ocean, which had no electricity. The couple spent several months a year there. While in Maui, Lindbergh worked with local residents to establish Haleakala National Park. The legendary and controversial figure was often spotted pushing his grocery cart around the local market.

In late 1973, the normally active Lindbergh fell uncharacteristically ill, lost weight, and could not stop coughing. His doctors discovered he had an advanced case of lymphatic cancer. Lindbergh prepared for his death as he had all important events in his life; no detail was left uncovered. On dying, he said, "It's not terrible, it's very easy and natural." In the summer of 1974, he endured a nearly month-long confinement in Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York. Knowing that time was running out, Lindbergh requested that he be flown back to Maui. Though his doctors warned the journey might kill him, Lindbergh replied, "I would rather spend one day on Maui than 30 days in the hospital."

In the early morning hours of August 26, 1974, Charles Lindbergh died. By 2 pm that afternoon, before the news of his death could be announced to the world, he was placed in the earth he had so many times soared above. Not long before that day he had written, "...After my death, the molecules of my being will return to the earth and the sky. They came from the stars. I am of the stars."




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