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'He always said keep it sunny side up': Family remembers pilot after French Lick crash

"He is a good pilot. I'm very proud of him," his wife said. "I just don't know what really happened."

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Robert Flick of French Lick spent a lot of his life in the sky.

"Yeah, he loved flying," his son, John Flick, said.

His wife, Evanglina Flick said, "I think he loves flying [more] than his wife." 

While Robert and Evanglina were married for about 46 years, he's been with his plane (a Beechcraft b35) for just about two years more.

"He repainted it and worked on it every year," Evangelina said.

The 78-year-old flew through 20 years with the air force, in and out of hurricanes, then continued on as a veteran. 

"He is a good pilot. I'm very proud of him," she said. "I just don't know what really happened."

Saturday around 9 p.m., Indiana State Police (ISP) said the Beechcraft b35 crashed in French Lick. Robert Flick was flying home from near St. Louis after celebrating his grandson's birthday.

Now, the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and state police are working to find what happened and confirm Robert's identity. 

The NTSB told WHAS11 that the investigation is in its early stages. They've documented the scene and requested traffic communications, radar data, weather reports and are working to contact witnesses. 

Though the preliminary report will take about two more weeks. 

"For me, he is still alive," Evangelina said. "I was telling my kids, I want to go to the site. I know he's still there."

As they wait for answers, his family is remembering the things that made their father, and in turn, made them. 

"I think I learned my work ethic from him," his daughter Betsy Nicholson said.

His son John Flick remembered, "He always said keep it sunny side up." 

With an infectiously warm demeanor, he went to great lengths to make people smile. He even painted the side of a barn with a giant smiley face you could see from the road or even the sky. 

"It was just something he felt like he needed to do," John said. "So he painted this big yellow circle and the eyes for the smiley face."

He was a veteran, a farmer and a family man. But most of all, he will be missed.

"I love him," Evangelina said.

► Contact reporter Tom Lally at TLally@whas11.com or on Facebook or Twitter.

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