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Speaking Engagement Gallery

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A Trip to Remember Awards

The following are awards received for “A Trip To Remember” and awards received for work completed alongside Lt. Col. Ferrill A. Purdy:

  • Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book Competition [2016]: Runner Up!
  • 5th Annual Beverly Hills Book Awards [2016]: Finalist for Juvenile Fiction and Finalist for Regional Fiction Midwest!
  • Five Star Dragonfly Book Awards [2016]: First Place for Military and Second Place for Children’s Chapter Books!

On December 11, 2016 the Mid Missouri Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) presented me the Citizen of the Year Award in Columbia, MO. I was honored to receive this award (although I can think of 100 other people who deserve it more) and it was really cool to be in a room full of military officers and their families. They certainly deserve the real recognition for the service and sacrifices they have given to our country while protecting our freedoms.

This award was given because of commitment and dedication towards our veterans and for my work on my second book including talking to schools around Missouri teaching honor and respect to our military men and women through Mr. Purdy’s story. My mission is to teach our youth that every single day we need to honor and respect our veterans.

I always say that we can’t change the past but together we can change the future.

Living History Flying Event featuring Corsair F4U-1A #17799 in Chino, CA [August 5, 2017]

On August 5, 2017 I had the opportunity to present at the Planes of Fame Air Museum’s Living History Flying Day featuring the Corsair F4U-1A # 17799 for the second year in a row! This was such a great day to connect with so many wonderful people and coming to Planes of Fame is like coming to a second home! I truly appreciate what they are doing to keep aviation history alive!

The last time I was here (August 2016) we had just figured out that Mr. Purdy and Mr. Tashjian were the confirmed pilots of the Corsair #17799 and what an exciting trip that was! Mr. Ed Maloney sat front row with his daughter, Karen Hinton and listened to this incredible story about his plane.

When Mr. Maloney purchased the Corsair, it had been removed from World War II and purchased by MGM. It was used in many films, including Baa Baa Black Sheep, before it was placed on the back lot in horrible shape. Mr. Maloney purchased the Corsair in the 1970’s and fully restored it to what you see today. This was the last event he attended at Planes of Fame and the last time he would walk through the doors before he passed away. I still kick myself for not taking time to visit with him. It was his vision and his dedication that made Planes of Fame possible and now his family is doing and amazing job to keep this wonderful place thriving!

On this trip we talked about that history, for those who didn’t hear it last year, but also what happened since my last visit to Planes of Fame in 2016. Truly incredible to see such a wonderful turn out of speakers and of attendees… 500+ of them! Thank you to Scott Plummer for taking the bulk of photos for me and Frank Mormillo for sending me several from this event! I am so thankful for this opportunity and it was so good to see everyone – Hope to see you all soon!

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Planes of Fame Presentation Materials [August 2017]

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CelebrARTy [October 27, 2016]

I had the opportunity to be a CelebARTy Guest Artist for Access Arts in Columbia, MO, and I was paired with an amazing, talented and very patient real artist, Madeleine LeMieux who is the founder and director of Resident Arts here in Columbia, MO!

My first session with Madeleine we talked about what I am passionate about and it only seemed fitting to do something focused on a very special World War II veteran, Lt. Col. Ferrill A. Purdy! Also, she wanted to see what my drawing abilities were so we played around with drawing Mr. Purdy. The second session we started drawing him on canvas and using burnt sienna (brown) to start shading. The third session we started using color and learning about highlights and low lights while the fourth and final session we worked on the finer details to complete the painting.  

I can promise that I most certainly stepped outside my comfort zone and did a painting that I’m pretty dang proud of! Madeleine was an awesome teacher, very patient and I would highly recommend her to anyone when it comes to teaching how to paint a person…. something I had never done before!

On the night of the reveal they gave Madeleine’s painting to Mr. Purdy as a token of their appreciation for his service! I am so glad he and also his daughter, Gayla Maier, could be there. 

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Lt. Col. Ferrill A. Purdy Reunites With His Corsair [October 15, 2016]

Saturday, October 15, 2016 – We raised $28,000.00 in 40 days to bring this very special aircraft to Columbia, MO. It was a wonderful day to witness a very special reunion between Lt. Col. Ferrill A. Purdy and the Corsair F4U-1A #17799 that he flew during World War II, nearly 72 years ago.

As you know when I started writing my second children’s book and used Mr. Purdy’s character, it was his real story that lead us to his wing man, Major John H. Tashjian (whom he got to meet on June 26, 2016 as they haven’t seen each other since the end of World War II nearly 70 years ago) and lead us to this very special plane.

The morning was nothing short of perfect. Surrounded by nearly 200 people we honored and respected Mr. Purdy and told his true story which had never been told publicly until today. It was sad seeing the Corsair, Robbie Patterson (Pilot) and Cory O’Bryan (Mechanic/Historian) leave on Sunday morning but this whole event is something that Mr. Purdy will never forget.

Just before they flew out of town they flew over the Purdy’s home and dipped the wings several times – as if to wave goodbye- before making a quick flight over our property. When I asked if he was happy, he replied, “I am so happy!” The highlight for him is seeing his kids, Gayla Maier and Greg Purdy, take a flight in the very plane their dad flew during World War II and the second highlight was patting the belly of that plane!

Thank you to every single person that helped to make this day so incredibly special. It would have never been possible without the love and support of our community, and I am afraid if I start naming people I will forget someone so please forgive me!

Thank you Jim Robertson with JR Creative for capturing the little moments of this incredible day! A very special thank you to Randy Clark with Central Missouri Aviation for your help and providing the location for this memorable event!

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Corsair F4U-1A #17799 Comes To Columbia – Private Event [October 14, 2016]

Friday, October 14, 2016 was a very special night as we waited for that moment for a long time. The Purdy family had a private gathering with the Corsair F4U-1A # 17799 that Lt. Col. Ferrill A. Purdy flew during World War II when he was 22 years old. We wanted to provide a special moment for the Purdy family as they got to see their husband/dad’s reaction to seeing an old plane he flew. It was simply perfect! Robbie Patterson (pilot) and Cory O’Bryan (Mechanic/Historian) from Planes of Fame Air Museum traveled from Chino, CA for this very moment and it certainly was, “A Trip To Remember!”

Thank you to Jim Robertson with JR Creative for capturing this evening and sending me the photos! They are cherished.


Planes of Fame Air Museum Chino, CA – Living History Day [August 6, 2016]

About 6 weeks prior to this event, we found that Lt. Col. Ferrill A. Purdy actually flew this aircraft twice during World War II. This would be the first time in the 50 years that Planes of Fame, owners of the aircraft, would learn who flew this very unique aircraft in war, and it would receive the title “Combat Vet”.

The plane was removed from World War II, purchased by MGM, and used in Hollywood Movies before it was purchased by Mr. Ed Maloney, owner of Planes of Fame.

Two weeks later we also learned that Mr. Purdy’s wingman, Major John H. Tashjian flew this aircraft once during World War II.

I was asked to come tell Mr. Purdy’s story for Planes of Fame Air Museum’s Living History event that featured the Corsair F4U-1A # 17999. With nearly 700+ people in attendance and Mr. Tashjian next to me,we began telling Mr. Purdy’s story publicly. It was incredible and was very exciting to have this newly discovered news. While Mr. Purdy and his family did not get to go on this trip, we did get to recognize the now 3 veterans that have been confirmed they did in fact fly this very unique aircraft! After the big event on Saturday August 6th they surprised me with taking a very special flight in the very plane these guys flew during World War II – something I will never forget!

This was certainly “A Trip To Remember”!

Thank you Jim Robertson/ JR Creative, Scott Plummer / AIRSHOWVID.COM, Warbird Photos / Moments Capture Photography / Britt Dietz Photography, Frank Mormillo and many more Planes of Fame Volunteers for helping to capture this historic day at Planes of Fame!

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Planes of Fame Air Museum – Chino, CA [August 5, 2016]

A Corsair F4U-1A # 17799 was used in World War II then removed and purchased by MGM. It was used in various movies, including Baa-Baa Black Sheep, before being placed on their back lot.

Although Mr. Ed Maloney purchased this nearly scrapped plane in the 1970’s, he fully restored this aircraft to what it is today.

Planes of Fame Air Museum has owned this aircraft for nearly 50 years yet they have never been able to tie it to any pilot.

On June 15, 2016 we made history by locating the aircraft that Mr. Purdy flew during World War II. I made a phone call but didn’t get the answer I wanted, so I sent an e-mail. I told them I had a veteran that flew their aircraft and wanted to know more about it including what it would cost to fly it to Columbia, MO. The response came from Jerry Wilkins, Executive Director of Planes of Fame Air Museum, and said “Did he fly Corsair’s or did he fly OUR Corsair?” My response was what made history…. “He flew YOUR Corsair” which became a whirlwind of phone calls and lots of excitement. For the first time they could 100% validate their Corsair F4U-1A #17799 did in fact see combat action and they have a living pilot identified who flew this aircraft.

On June 26, 2016 we made history again when Mr. Tashjian, Mr. Purdy’s wing man, visited Columbia, MO and brought his World War II Flight Log Book. As a result, we verified that he too flew this exact aircraft. We now have 2 living pilots and a Corsair they flew during World War II!

On August 5, 2016 I flew to Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino, CA for a very special event as I would be one of the presenters for their Living History Event featuring the Corsair the following day. During this visit Mr. Tashjian got the chance to reunite with the aircraft he flew during World War II and as a special surprise they took his son, Peter Tashjian, for a flight in the very plane his dad flew during combat. It was something they will never forget and Mr. Tashjian said the highlight of this trip was watching his son in the Corsair he flew 72 years ago when he was 23 years old!

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A Trip To Remember Book Signing [July 23, 2016]

On Saturday July 23, 2016 I hosted a book signing for my latest children’s book titled “A Trip To Remember” at the Holiday Inn Executive Center in Columbia, MO.

While it was small it was absolutely perfect!

The best part is that Lt. Col. Ferrill A. Purdy was able to attend and thanks to those that came! You certainly made his day!

He loved interacting with everyone and talks about this day often!

Also, a special thank you to Cherie Rutter with Cherie’s Cake Boutique for providing delicious treats for this event, Jeff Berg with Grindstone Digital Imaging for printing the many pictures we had on display from Mr. Purdy’s personal collection (including framing of the exact replicas of Mr. Purdy’s military ribbons and medals), Peggy A. Guest for being there and being a huge piece to this book (including your hubby, Joe for making the display cases just like in the book), the awesome pictures from Jim Robertson with JR Creative and capturing this very special day and of course my family and friends that continuously supports me in anything I do! You all ROCK!

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Two Ol’ Marine Fighter Pilots Reunite [June 27, 2016]

While gathering information from Mr. Purdy for my book, he often spoke of his wing man, John. I began doing a little research on John and found him alive and well living in California so I contacted him. These two buddies have re-connected by telephone but after nearly 70 years on June 25, 2016 Lt. Col. Ferrill A. Purday and Major John H. Tashjian would get to meet again in person. What a wonderful day it was and something none of us will ever forget! A special thank you to Lollipop Photography for capturing this rare piece of history and his very first visit to Missouri!

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Lt. Col. Ferrill A. Purdy World War II Photos

This gallery has photographs that a young Ferrill A. Purdy had mailed home to his mom to let her know he was safe. The only form of communication came from the mail and she worried about her son and these are photographs that she held onto dearly. Sadly, all the letters that he wrote to his mom have all been destroyed but she kept them long after he arrived back home from the war. I appreciate the Purdy family allowing me to share these pictures with the groups I talk to.


Lt. Col. Ferrill A. Purdy and Michele Spry, Author Photo Shoot [April 2016]

As I was getting to the final steps of finishing “A Trip To Remember” I wanted to include pictures of Mr. Purdy in order to help tell part of his story and the things that we had discovered in our research. I used Mr. Purdy’s character in this story and I wanted people to see what he looked like as well as honor this true American Hero. A huge thank you to Lollipop Photography for capturing these photos!


Tom T’s Hat Rack Book Signing [February 16, 2013]

Well, today was the big day… it was my first book signing! I was excited and nervous as I didn’t really know what to expect. When I first became public with my book I was approached by Stoney Creek Inn-Columbia, MO. They wanted to host my book signing and I was extremely happy to have them involved and be the first place to debut my brand new book!

It was an amazing day for me. Taking my dream of wanting to write a children’s book and making it a reality. Being able to physically hold my book in my hand was an incredible feeling…. a sense of pride. But the moment I saw all the people waiting in a long line to not only purchase one of my books but to get it personalized and signed by me…. I can’t even tell you how proud I was.

When you take a leap of faith and do something you’ve never done before not knowing what others may think is scary.

I’m not going to lie… after I signed the contract to self-publish my book I had a moment of,  “Should I really do this?” but I knew that everything with all of this, from the title of the book to the story line to how fast the book was written, was too perfect. By perfect I mean it happened perfectly and of course my book isn’t perfect. Once I included Peggy A. Guest in as my illustrator the story came to life. It still had many “Michele-ism’s” in it and those of you that know me can hear me throughout the book which is how I wanted it.

It truly was a wonderful day and I know it wouldn’t have been possible without Stoney Creek Inn-Columbia, MO, Village Books, Tom Trabue, Peggy A. Guest, Jim Robertson and the many people that came to show their support! We had between 150-175 people come to our book signing.

You all make me smile bigger and I have so much to be thankful for!

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Tom T’s Hat Rack Book Awards

The following are awards received from writing “Tom T’s Hat Rack”:

  • 2013 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards: Honorable Mention
  • 2013 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards: 2nd Place Children’s Chapter Book
  • 2014 Best of Columbia Awards: Gold for Local Author