Flight wish granted

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John Zerillo, 91, waves as he prepares to take off in a plane at Portland Flight Services. He realized a lifelong dream to fly a plane. 

John Zerillo, a 91-year-old resident of the Avita of Stroudwater memory care facility in Westbrook, lived out a lifelong dream this past weekend. 

On Saturday, June 11, Zerillo, who is also a Navy veteran, was brought to Portland Flight Services on Westbrook Street, where he flew a plane alongside instructor Pete Chaisson. 

According to a press release from Avita, Zerillo had a recent health scare, but survived. The event resulted in his talking about his one life regret – never being able to fly a plane.

“John has been fascinated by planes his whole life. Serving in the Navy he often found his head tilted up admiring all birds in the sky great and small,” the press release said. 

At 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Zerillo was escorted by Sgt. Timothy Morrell of the Westbrook Police Department to Portland Flight Services.

“I never thought in a million years I’d get to do that,” he said about the experience. “That was something special.” 

Lea Rust, the marketing director for Avita, said the event “was amazing.”

“To be able to create meaningful moments for our residents internally and externally is something we are so dedicated to,” she said. “An event like this for a resident fills my heart and reminds me personally of why I do what I do.”

John Zerillo, 91, waves as he prepares to take off in a plane at Portland Flight Services. He realized a lifelong dream to fly a plane.