Family & Friends
By Pamela Selbert, F195400
Raynell Proksa says that Ed, her husband of 13 years, is the most committed FMCA member she knows.
“The magazine is practically his bible,” she said with a smile. “He reads it cover to cover, then at campgrounds searches out coaches without a goose egg (oval FMCA membership plate).” Considered a “great recruiter” by his wife, Ed has given away many copies of Family Motor Coaching to non-member motorhomers, hoping to entice them to join the organization. But there are several issues that he treasures and wouldn’t dream of parting with, particularly those published in 1964 and 1965. Those were the first magazines that Ed, 82, received when he joined the fledgling organization. He proudly displays his own goose egg bearing membership number F726 on his coach.
Ed said that he and his first wife, Jane, who passed away in 1988, were talked into joining FMCA in 1965 by good friends Oren and Cleta Grandstaff, L115. Earlier that year Ed and Jane had bought their first motor coach, a 1945 converted Flxible bus made in Greenville, Ohio.
Over the years, Ed has owned 11 motorhomes and has a photo album containing pictures of each. Without looking he can name them all: a 1966 18-foot Clark Cortez with a four-speed manual transmission; a 1972 23-foot Cortez with an automatic transmission; a 1992 Airstream Legacy; a 1996 Tiffin Allegro; and a 1999 Fleetwood Discovery, among others. He gave many of them nicknames “” for the first coach, “Reynolds Wrap”; and “Wheel Estate” for his second, a 1955 Flxible.
Ed and Jane joined a club of Cortez owners from Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio called “Michindoho.” The 12 to 15 couples in this group were like brothers and sisters, Ed recalled. He said that two of the couples still drive a Cortez, despite the fact that the coaches haven’t been built since 1979.
When asked if he had ever heard of a Thermosan, which other longtime motorhomers sometimes recall with slightly embarrassed grins, Ed said the device came as standard equipment on his 1972 Cortez.
“It got rid of black water by burning it; pumping it over the manifold and out with the exhaust,” he said with a chuckle. “I guess it worked okay, but pity the driver coming along behind.”
Ed and Raynell currently drive a 2001 36-foot National RV Tradewinds, which they purchased early in 2002. Ed does all the maintenance on the coach, Raynell said proudly.
The Proksas live in Auburn, Indiana, a small town of 15,000 that’s located approximately 20 miles north of Fort Wayne in the northeast corner of the state. Ed has lived there since 1968, but he’s been a Hoosier since 1948 when he relocated from Riverside, Illinois, to become a distribution agent for Mobil Oil. He retired from the company in 1977.
Although Ed and Raynell both attended First Christian Church in Auburn, they didn’t meet until just before the Christmas of 1988 during the hanging of the greens, Raynell said. “I wasn’t tall enough to put the star on top of the tree, so I asked Ed to do it.”
Ed’s wife, Jane, had died six months earlier and his children were telling him to get out of the house and meet new people. Raynell, 58, long divorced from her first husband, accepted when he asked her out. The two dated for a year and a half before marrying.
Raynell quickly became as hooked on motorhoming as her husband. The couple now spends approximately six months a year on the road visiting their children (he has seven daughters; she has two sons), traveling to Navy reunions, or just sight-seeing.
When I met the Proksas they were in Jackson, Mississippi, waiting out a hurricane before continuing on to a Navy reunion in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where 80 World War II veterans were expected to meet. Ed spent 24 years flying for the Navy, serving active duty and in the reserves. Whenever possible in their travels, he and Raynell stay at campgrounds on military bases. He enjoys talking about his years in the service about as much as his early days as a motorhomer.
Before World War II, Ed drove a tanker delivering fuel oil in Illinois. But in September 1942, less than a year after the United States entered the war, he enlisted in the Navy to “learn to fly and swim,” he said. After extensive training, he flew 30 combat missions in a three-year period.
While Ed was onboard the USS Shipley Bay aircraft carrier in 1944, en route to the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea, the ship got caught in a typhoon and was “dead in the water for 10 or 12 hours.”
“The ship was carrying 60 planes loaded with bombs and fuel, and we were rolling left some 52 degrees,” he said. “The air officer, a lieutenant commander, had to cut the cables, sending all those planes into the drink; it was the only thing he could do to save us.”
The USS Shipley Bay was later able to limp into Guam, he added, but it had sustained so much damage during the storm that it had to return to the United States for repairs. Ed was transferred to another ship.
He flew a Grumman F6F Hellcat fighter plane to Okinawa, Japan, and recalled the thrill of being catapulted off the ship. He also flew a Vought F4U Corsair, which he considered a good fighter and excellent dive-bomber.
Despite his many missions, Ed was never wounded in battle. However, his younger brother, George, his only sibling and also a Navy pilot, was not so fortunate. George was killed in a plane crash.
“After the war I didn’t care if I ever saw another plane,” Ed said. But two months after he left the service he realized that he had to get back in the air. So in early 1946 he joined a reserve dive-bomber squadron and began flying a Douglas Sky Raider out of Glenview, Illinois. For the next 20 years, Ed spent one weekend each month and two weeks of active duty every year flying to Puerto Rico, Cuba, Florida, California, Virginia, and elsewhere.
Ten years ago, Ed became a charter member of the Hoosier Warbirds, an organization of approximately 100 aviation enthusiasts that operates its own military museum near Auburn. Believing in the importance of remembering the war and the men who fought and died for freedom, Ed frequently gives Veterans Day speeches to schools and other groups.
He is also an active member of the International Fellowship of Flying Rotarians; is a founder of the local Auburn Cord Deusenberg Museum; served eight years as city councilman; was president of the county’s aviation board; served as a member of the local board of zoning appeals; and is on his church’s board of directors.
Despite Ed’s many other activities, motorhoming has always been one of his high priorities. The Proksas’ low family membership number entitles them to be members of FMCA’s Pipe Dreamers chapter, a group made up of long-time FMCA members whose membership numbers are under 5,000. Ed is the treasurer for the chapter, which meets during FMCA international conventions.
Ed recalls many humorous moments from his motorhoming trips. For example, at one FMCA convention, an RVer who was parked nearby brought out a four-by-four block of wood with a faucet and electrical outlet attached to it, and hammered the post into the ground near his coach “” merely for decoration, of course, as hookups were not provided. “Another camper pulled in next door and plugged in his coach “” then was quite irate that he had no power,” Ed said.
Raynell noted that before she and Ed were married, she had never traveled. He changed that by taking her to Niagara Falls for a romantic honeymoon and on dozens of other trips since then.
“He asked if I liked going camping, and I said I’d never tried it,” she said, smiling. “But I was willing “” I’m not sure we would have ended up together if I had refused.
“We really are so blessed.”