Angels in the Airfield
photos by Joie de Vivre Photographie
They’re one of those couples you just can’t get enough of, and you certainly can’t help but smile when you’re around them. Meet Lee and Joyce Shulman, a dynamic duo who shares a love and commitment not only for each other but also for helping others.
Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, the two found love at a little theatre after Joyce discovered Lee wasn’t ‘just a bongo player’ but also a psychologist. “I thought he just played the drums,” states a smiling Joyce, “but little did I know, he was also a psychologist!”
Lee and Joyce attended the University of Michigan where they both received their PhD. Sharing a love for theatre, dance, jazz, their profession, and each other, the couple quickly learned they also shared a love for flying.
“Just before college, I joined the Army during World War II, because I wanted to be a pilot,” states Lee. “I was sworn in at Scott Field Air Base, but I didn’t even make it through basic training before they pulled me out of there.” Lee’s hobby of cryptography, combined with the fact that he could type over 100 words a minute and had a high IQ, made him a perfect candidate for military crypto analysis. The military had sent Lee to the Orient to work on the Japanese code, which was broken by Lee and his team.
Lee served in the military until November of 1945, and in 1958 thought it was time he learn to fly. In December of that same year, Lee received his pilot’s license. No stranger to flying, Joyce also received her pilot’s license in the mid 1960’s, just a few years prior to marrying Lee.
“We have a lot in common, and we’ve had some interesting and wonderful times together,” states Joyce.
After commuting from Detroit to Manhattan every other weekend (the Shulmans had a practice in both cities), they decided to head west. In 1977 they moved to Beverly Hills, despite the fact they still commuted to Michigan every other weekend for five years. “It gave us a reason to fly, and we didn’t want to leave our clients in Detroit.” Shortly after, the couple relocated to the Santa Clarita Valley.
In the early 1990’s, the Shulmans got involved with Angel Flight West, a non profit organization whose mission is to arrange free air transportation for those with compelling health needs. “We heard about the organization through mutual friends of ours who were pilots. We began going to meetings and became aware of all that Angel Flight West was doing,” states Joyce. “A few years later, they asked me to serve on the Board of Directors, and after that, Lee served, too.”
“Angel Flight West is an amazing organization,” continues Joyce. “We are able to fly anyone in need to and from medical treatment.”
Lee adds, “We fly organs, blood, and any type of patients that require special handling because a lot of people can’t fly commercial due to of their compromised immune systems.”
Since its inception, Angel Flight West has flown over 60,000 flights free of charge, 10,000 of those missions just last year. “We have a group of dispatchers, we call ‘mission coordinators’ and they are all volunteers,” states Joyce. “We also have ground angel volunteers to help transport patients before and after their flights. These pilots volunteer their planes, time and gas. Every pilot flies for free and their services are also free to the charity as well as to the patient.”
While Lee and Joyce do not fly for Angel Flight West any longer, they have donated their time and efforts to helping the organization, bringing Angel Flight West to the Santa Clarita Valley to help patients in need. The Shulmans also serve on the advisory boards of the Child & Family Center and the Repertory East Playhouse. They have also authored a few books, their last which was titled, I Do…Again – The Renewable Marriage.
“We love our work, we love what we do, and we love each other. We wouldn’t have it any other way!”
For more information about Angel Flight West, visit www.angelflight.org.