Pastoral Institute Executive Director Ron King didn’t even have to look into the sky to know when Gerry Edmonds was moving among the clouds.
King was Edmonds’ boss at the Pastoral Institute, a Columbus counseling center. But when Edmonds would take his experimental aircraft for a late-afternoon flight, King knew he was there. After all, the plane had a Volkswagen engine.
“He loved to fly late in the evenings,” King said. “I heard him up there many times. I would just say, ‘There goes Gerry.’ His plane made such an unusual sound, it was like nothing else.”
Edmonds, 63, was killed Sunday about 6 p.m. when his experimental aircraft crashed just off a runway at Columbus Metropolitan Airport.
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Flying was Edmonds’ passion, said Pastoral Institute Chief Financial Officer Sandy Harris.
“The only thing he ever talked about outside of work was flying that plane, and he did it every opportunity he had,” Harris said. “He said he found peace when he was flying.”
The loss of Edmonds, a psychologist with two doctorate degrees, left a hole in the local mental health community. It also sent the Pastoral Institute, which provides grief counseling, seeking counseling of its own. Local ministers and psychologists were brought in Monday to talk with the staff.
Last month, Edmonds celebrated his 20th anniversary in Columbus. He moved from Wyoming to work at the Bradley Center, then began working with the Pastoral Institute in 1992.
“He has seen literally thousands of people over the years,” Pastoral Institute Chief Executive Officer Ron King said.
Edmonds, 63, was carrying a full case load, seeing between 22 and 25 patients a week, King said. Those he worked with included people who have difficulty dealing with stress and those with significant depression. The staff at the Pastoral Institute spent much of the day Monday making contact with Edmonds’ patients.
“That is our concern,” King said. “They need continuing care and they have suffered the loss of a significant relationship.”Edmonds had a doctorate degree in clinical psychology from Florida Institute of Technology and another from the University of Wyoming in experimental psychology.
“He was probably brilliant,” King said. “But he was not one to tell you. You would have to discover it on your own.”
Most of those who knew Edmonds described him as an extremely private person.
He was divorced and had no children, King said. He had several siblings scattered across the country. The last two years, he had been battling prostate cancer.
Harris described him as an introvert. King called him “very private.”
And he wasn’t one to take unnecessary chances, King said.
“He had done his homework and trusted his plane,” King said.
Sometimes Edmonds would fly to Louisville, Ky., to visit his brother.
“The weather turned and he called to say he was stranded,” King said of one trip. “He said he was going to fly commercial and leave his plane in Louisville.”