Rex Ridenoure cut his work trip early to rush home to see his sister LouAnn Alexander. Previously diagnosed with breast cancer, LouAnn fought through it. Then recently she had a stomachache that confirmed the worst- her cancer was back. His sister had confirmed that she was diagnosed this time with pancreatic cancer and it was spreading. Instead of making a treatment plan, LouAnn and her family made plans for hospice care.
While waiting for his flight in the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Rex couldn’t help but think of his sweet sister. LouAnn had a decades-long career as a flight attendant, most recently with Southwest Airlines- the airline he was flying with that day. It pained Rex to know that his sister never got to properly retire or say goodbye to the career he knew that she loved so much. While waiting, he struck up a conversation with a flight attendant. He wanted to know if he could take a pair of wings back to his sister. He ended up telling the woman his sister’s story. To both of their surprise, the woman knew LouAnn and had worked with her in the past.
Jamie, the flight attendant on Rex’s flight, did one better than just getting LouAnn a pair of wings. She and Rex came up with a plan that would allow LouAnn to get her final goodbye to the career she loved so much. With the permission of the captain, Rex got on the open mic and made an announcement to the plane. He told them about his sister and how special she was. He told them about what she was going through and what a few kind words would mean to her. He then passed around a napkin to everyone and asked that, if they would, to write a few words to her.
Before Rex got off of the plane, he had 96 napkin messages for LouAnn and several trinkets from his fellow passengers. One woman knitted a crocheted a multi-colored headband to keep LouAnn’s head warm. Two men worked to create a bouquet of flowers from the napkins and straws that they were provided on the flight. Another woman drew LouAnn a vase full of flowers and told her that they helped to brighten her day and they hoped they would do the same for her.
Rex turned all the messages into a photo album that is public on Facebook. LouAnn got a chance to see all the messages from the passengers on the flight before she passed away from her fight with pancreatic cancer just eight weeks after being diagnosed with the disease.