WWII vet rides again

Dr. Lisso Simmons waits to board the plane for a flight over Natchitoches. From left are his great grandson Tovin Lisso Simmons, daughter Staci Waldvoggel, pilot Dean Lemoine, Lisso and David Simmons.

Carolyn Roy | News Editor

Dr. Lisso Simmons crossed off the last thing on his bucket list Monday after soaring through the skies over Natchitoches after taking off from Natchitoches Regional Airport. A well-known Natchitoches citizen and former Northwestern State professor, Simmons received the plane ride in a four-seater as a gift from his son, David.

Dean Lemoine, an airline pilot, was at the controls.

This article published in the Jan. 1, 2022 print edition

Along for the ride with Lisso and David Simmons was Lisso’s great grandson and namesake, Tovin Lisso. Dr. Dieter A. Waldvoggel, Lt. Col., US Air Force, Retired, told the Times that his father-in-law has wanted to lift off again ever since he was a Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG) during world War II. Waldvoggel is married to Lisso’s daughter, Staci.

“I could have flown that plane,” Lisso said after the ride.

Really gratifying was having his son and great grandson with him. He was able to see his former home and other sites from the air that he said were “…free from the traffic.” Flying conditions were nearly perfect.

David Simmons said he could not have gotten the details worked out without the cooperation of the personnel at Natchitoches Regional Airport. Once he contacted them, they secured Lemoine and the plane and worked out the details.

“It was just great,” Lisso says.

Dr. Lisson Simmons said it was a great pleasure having his great grandson and son with him on the flight at Natchitoches Regional Airport. From left are Tovin Lisso Simmons, Dr. Lisso Simmons, son David Simmons and pilot Dean Lemoine.

The once active Lions Club member is now 99 and lives at The Arbor. He was on active duty in the U.S. Navy from 1942-52 on just one ship for the duration of the war. That ship was the USS Belleau Wood, an 11-ton independence class small aircraft carrier active in the Pacific Theater. It supported the US Army and US Marines while capturing islands in the Pacific Theater and sailed into Tokyo Harbor following the Japanese surrender.

Lisso took part in Operation Magic Carpet, a US Navy operation that transported 8 million troops back to the States after the war almost immediately following Japan’s surrender.