His very first flight to Statia – all the way back in 1946! – was to deliver the mail and now José ‘Pipe’Dormoy can be seen with the mail again; or rather on the mail. He has been honored with his own stamp for his role in opening up Statia (and Saba) to the outside world.
A series of three stamps has been issued by Nieuwe Post Nederlandse Antillen N.V. to acknowledge the contributions of José, ‘Freddy Johnson from Saba and N. Chester Wathey from St. Maarten to the liberation of the islands from their isolation and to the subsequent opportunities for further development of the people. The series of three stamps is the result of an initiative of the Aviation Pioneers of the Caribbean Foundation which is based in Statia.
The stamps and special first day envelopes were presented to the families of the honorees and to representatives of the island governments by Mr. Franklin Sluis, General Managing Director of Nieuwe Post N.A., during a special ceremony in St.Maarten.
Surprise announcement by Lt. Governor Gittens
Statia’s Lieutenant Governor Mr. Hyden Gittens received a specially framed presentation of the stamps and envelope on behalf of the island territory.
He congratulated the families and also made a surprise announcement regarding another project of the Aviation Pioneers Foundation. He could report that on that same morning, the Executive Council confirmed that they are open and interested to talk to the Foundation about their role in making possible a flight school in Statia. He concluded: "We hope to talk to Elly (Deliën, founder) and Terrance (Rey, chairman) shortly so that we can build on this and make it possible and in this way continue the legacy of these three great men and other pioneers of this era."
Mr. Terrance Rey, managing director of Air StMaarten (a company specializing in private charters throughout the Caribbean) and current president of the Aviation Pioneers of the Caribbean Foundation, called the stamps "the culmination of an idea an inspiration as it were, " that struck whilst at lunch in Statia with Elly Deliën, long time partner of the late José Dormoy, the management of the Post Office walked in (deze zin loopt niet).
St. Maarten leader of government As secretary and resident historian of the Foundation, I was asked by Elly Deliën to speak on her behalf and acknowledge this honor bestowed onto José. The St. Maarten leader of government Mr. William Marlin gave me a great lead in when he said: "There are so many stories about how he flew the things he could do with an aircraft: endless and countless." Because I was going to dish out some of them! It was indeed difficult to choose from the wealth of anecdotes – not only about his bravura or his pranks, but also those illustrating his commitment to the people of Statia and Saba who could always count on him when an emergency airlift was required.
And when that happened at night, in those days it meant he had to take off and land with the help of only car headlights! He even managed to land a pregnant mother to be from Statia on a pitch dark St. Maarten airport when they could not find anyone to light up the runway there.
Saving a life
One of the stories is about when he received a very late notice call to fill in for a pilot who was ill. He showed up in his gardening cloths, went into the plane and sat down on one of the passenger seats. And sat. And waited – like the passengers. Until he finally stood up, saying something along the lines of "I am fed up with this waiting, I’ll just fly this thing myself!" – and sat down in the cockpit! It took all the powers of persuasion of the Sabans in the plane who recognized him to calm down the American tourists on board! I brought with me the letter that a lady wrote to him after he found her back when she had been missing for two days. The Puerto Rico coast guard could not locate her. Her desperate husband contacted ‘Pipe’ who found her within two hours. I quoted from her letter: "Please accept this letter and my most sincere thanks and appreciation for all you did to rescue me and save my life."
"It should not stop here" Elly Deliën, partner of many years of Dormoy, received a framed display of the stamps and first day envelope. Patsy Johnson received the same as the widow of Freddy Johnson, dedicated Winair agent in Saba, and Brenda Wathey was presented the display as the daughter of N. Chester Wathey of St. Maarten, one of the three founders of Winair.
Senator Will Johnson from Saba and Commissioner Frans Richardson from St. Maarten also spoke to acknowledge the honorees. Mr. Richardson in his own words reiterated a point made earlier by Mr. Marlin when the latter, referring to the stamps, said: "It should not stop here. It should become part of the textbooks we still have to write in our respective countries," which is exactly what the Foundation is all about!
In order to carry out the projects in this vein, which include education material for schools, the Foundation depends on donations. They can be made on the account of the Aviation Pioneers of the Caribbean Foundation nr. 105805306 at the Windward Islands Bank. Also, checks can be mailed to the treasurer, Elizabeth M. Delien c/o Mazinga Gift Shop, Mazinga Square, St. Eustatius.
Where to get the stamps
The stamps are available at the post office and at Mazinga Gift Shop, where the first day envelopes can be ordered as well.
And don’t forget: if you want to know how these pioneers deserved their own stamps, you can find the complete history of the early days of aviation in the departure lounge of Statia’s airport where twelve panels with almost 150 pictures and illustrations tell the whole story.