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The father of engineering

By Ed Brock

When machinist Olin Eady lost his wife a few years ago he took a set of spoke wheels he'd made and hung them on a wall.

A few months ago the 78-year-old Riverdale man took those wheels down and began building again. That's the key to a long life, Eady said.

"You've got to do something you enjoy," said Eady, sitting in the highly organized clutter of his basement.

The wheels, with spokes made from water pipes and rims of channel line, hold up the frame of the car he started building from scratch in January. It's a replica of the 1919 Model-T Ford.

"It's just a little old plaything," Eady said. "All my life I've had a fascination with the T-model. It was one of the first cars I owned. I was 13 years old and bought it for $7.50."

At a small table in the basement where Eady has built or restored so many machines, he thumbs through a photo album.

He's looking for the pictures of the 1947 Air Coupe airplane he bought and restored in that same basement about two decades ago. The before pictures show a battered plane with "a lot wrong with it." The after pictures show the freshly painted plane, its name "Miss Lucille" proudly painted on its tail.

Lucille was Eady's wife. Also in the album are pictures of Lucille, the woman Eady met shortly after he got out of the U.S. Navy in which he served during World War II.

In one picture she sits on a 1949 Harley Davidson HydraGlide.

"She didn't really want it but she rode it," Eady said.

In another picture the couple's only son, Jeff Eady, stands proudly by the "Miss Lucille."

"When I was a kid he never bough my go-carts, he built them," said Jeff Eady, now the director of public works for the city of Morrow. "Mine were always a little faster than the other kids."

Jeff Eady inherited his father's love of Harley Davidson motorcycles and even submitted pictures of his parents on Harleys to the motorcycle magazine "American Iron."

"My mom was riding motorcycles when women weren't riding motorcycles," Jeff Eady said.

A native of LaGrange, Ga., the elder Eady was born with machine grease under his fingernails.

"My dad was a master mechanic, and my uncle, and all my cousins," Eady said. "We just followed that line of business."

It was also during his childhood in LaGrange that Eady discovered his other love, flying. When he was still young there was a "cow pasture" airport near the town.

"One weekend they brought an old tri-motor (Ford airplane) in there," Eady said.

They dropped leaflets on the town announcing plane rides for a nickel, and Eady told his father he wanted to go. When the tri-motor flew over the town blowing a claxon to bring the residents out to the airport, Eady was one of the first in line.

It was beautiful, and then they landed.

"I ran back to the car to get another nickel," Eady said. "By the time I got back they had gone up to 50 cents."

Eady got his pilot's license in 1952, and he's owned a few planes including the "Miss Lucille." But flying just isn't as much fun as it once was, Eady said, before it became so regulated. And airplanes are very expensive to maintain.

"I doubt I'll ever have another one," Eady said.

Aircraft also gave Eady his living for some time before he retired in 1988. Shortly after the war he had been working for Callaway Mills in LaGrange when a friend suggested he go to work for Delta Air Lines.

So Lucille and he came to the Atlanta area and that's where they stayed for 30 years as he worked as a machinist and then a tooling analyst for the airline.

"That's one of the best things to happen to me," Eady said. "It's a good job, a good company and good people to work for."

Earlier this week Eady and his son fired up the little "T-model" for its first test drive, placing a box on the simple metal frame for a seat. By Wednesday he had stripped it back down to the frame. Short of the motor and suspension springs that he had to buy, the back end axle that he salvaged from a golf cart and the transmission he got from a now extinct "Corley car," Eady built the entire thing. It's not a kit.

"I've just sort of got in my head what I want," Eady said. "I've got a lot of work left to do."