A Wish Fulfilled: Dean Molln's Story

94-year-old Dean Molln made his living off the land, but his heart is in the sky. An experienced pilot, Dean hadn’t been in a private plane for decades, but wished he could go back in the air again.

Dean’s love of flying began long ago. An Army veteran, he served as a radioman in the Korean War for two years, beginning in 1951. When he returned from the war, he settled in Greenfield, Iowa and moved to Winterset around 1965. He had learned how to fly a plane, but needed to take his pilot’s test.

The day he was scheduled to take his test, he wrote the test answers on his arm. Dean remembers his wife brought a wash rag and soap, and washed the answers off. “She said ‘If you’re going to fly family, you’re going to pass that test on your own!’” He did.

With ownership in three Cessna airplanes (182, 150 and 172), Dean began flying back and forth to the places where he was building grain bins and to Des Moines to have a meal. He took his friends and family for joy rides — although they weren’t always joyful for those who Dean liked to spook. “Well, if you hadn’t rode in an airplane, I’d take that 150 up and spin it! You’d never want to ride again,” Dean laughed.

Dean helped start the Winterset Municipal Airport and covered the dirt runway with blacktop. He loved flying and did so every chance he got. As he aged, he gave up his pilot’s license, but never lost his love of flying.

Just before Christmas 2020, Dean got COVID-19. He was recovering when he had a heart attack. He initially went to the VA for rehab, but it was decided he needed the particular care of a local nursing home.

When the topic of hospice care was first discussed, Dean wasn’t completely on board, thinking his family was “giving up” on him. That was before he met EveryStep Hospice nurse Libby Maher and social worker Tonya Pierson, members of the Winterset team.

“He is such a sweet man. From our first visit we hit it off,” says Tonya. Dean soon told her about his love of flying. “When I asked about going up in a plane again, he said he needed to get strong. I promised I’d get him up in the air again!” Tonya brought the Winterset team up to speed on the plan. 

“When I first started being his case manager, he was a little unsure of this whole hospice thing,” remembers Libby. “When I met Dean, he could not walk. I asked him what his goals were and he said he’d sure love to walk again. I told him if he wanted to do that, he’d have to start doing some leg exercises and he did!”

Libby and Tonya decided that when Dean started to walk again, they would find a way to get him up in a plane again.

On April 16, Libby joined friends and family as they watched Dean ride passenger in a Cessna for a 30-minute flight — his first time in 20 years. Just before the flight, the pilot told the group it might not be a pleasant ride because of extreme turbulence that day and that he’d gladly reschedule. The family asked Dean if he was concerned about a very bumpy ride. “No,” he answered firmly. “I love it!”

The flight took off as scheduled and was bumpy, as warned. The pilot reported that Dean had no problems with it at all — even though the pilot had cancelled his flight lessons that day because he knew the turbulence would be too much for his young students.

After the plane landed, Dean could not stop smiling. “Oh, it was a beautiful flight,” was all he could say.

EveryStep Hospice helps those living with a serious illness make the best out of every day. Most hospice care is provided through in-home hospice services; however, when a patient needs around-the-clock hospice care to manage their pain and symptoms, EveryStep’s hospice houses are available.

Whether it's helping to pay for utilities because finances are tight or recreating a favorite home-cooked meal, EveryStep Hospice helps patients find quality of life on their terms. Sometimes this means fulfilling wishes and create lasting memories for patients and their families.

If you or someone you know is struggling to find the support they need, please contact EveryStep at 515-558-9946. Or complete the commitment-free, confidential “Find Care” form on EveryStep’s website at https://www.everystep.org/find-care. EveryStep staff will follow up with a phone call to answer your questions and provide assistance.