Alex Hebert, 18, wanted to do something special for her senior art project at Poland Regional High School.

She wanted it to have meaning.

With that in mind, she has spent the past couple of weeks constructing a replica of the Cessna 172 she took her first orientation flight, or “O” flight as she calls it, with the Civil Air Patrol more than five years ago.

It was also the plane in which she spent many flights with her friend, Joshua Wardwell, who passed away Dec. 5, 2012, while he was checking beaver traps in Oxford.

“We joined C.A.P. at the same time,” Hebert said. “It was time for my first “O” flight and I was psyched because I had never been in an aircraft before. Then as it started to get closer, I started to get nervous and I didn’t want to get in the aircraft. He convinced me to get in the aircraft, and he helped me find my love of flying. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have gotten in that airplane.”

A friendship quickly formed between the two, and they started planning flights together in Ugly Betty, a nickname the plane was given because of its previous paint job.

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If Ugly Betty was in Portland and their favorite senior pilot was unavailable, the two would wait until both were available

“All of my ‘O’ flights, except my last one, he was right there beside me,” Hebert said.

Wardwell rose to the status of top cadet commander in the Civil Air Patrol, and soon Hebert became his second in command.

“He taught me to be a leader,” she said.

So when Wardwell left the Civil Air Patrol to pursue sports and other interests, Hebert was sad to see him go.

The two drifted apart.

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“I wish I had talked to him more,” she said. “I figured I had time.” 

When she heard he had fallen through the ice and drowned in Chapman Pond, it hit her hard.

“Once you’re a part of C.A.P., you’re part of a family,” Hebert said. “I thought I’d see him around and catch up and it never happened.” 

Her final orientation flight was scheduled for the summer before her senior year. She took a photo of Wardwell with her for old times’ sake.

When she started working on her art project, it allowed her to relive to good times and brought back many good memories of her time with Wardwell.

“It’s given me closure and helped me deal with it,” she said. “I was kind of in denial that he was gone and now it’s real.”

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Along with the replica of Ugly Betty, Hebert Photoshopped photos of her and Wardwell together to create new pieces. 

The model and six photographs will all be installed in the Auburn-Lewiston Airport on Dec. 1 for a monthlong showing.

“The airport means a lot to me because that’s where I learned my love of flying,” Hebert said. “I think it would mean a lot to (Wardwell) too.” 

After high school, Hebert, a cadet 2nd lieutenant, plans to move to Delaware and continue flying. She hopes to get her solo pilot’s licence before leaving Maine and continue on as a senior level in the the Civil Air Patrol.

She will get a fresh start and hopefully work in aviation.

“I’ll be good for whatever comes my way,” Hebert said.

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AUBURN — An opening reception for Alex Hebert’s art show will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, at the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport, 80 Airport Drive.


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