The Harrington Family Jennifer and Brady pictured with their three children:  Jessica, Jordan and Peyton


“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;” Colossians 1:10

A sudden tragic turn of events leaves a young bride, Jennifer Swanson, questioning why her husband, a student in missionary aviation, should have lost his life in a plane crash, leaving her with two young children? “There were so many questions and so much doubt and sadness.” But through God’s grace and mercy His plan for the young widow’s life would be revealed through the “… many accounts from students, friends and family whose lives have changed because of God being glorified through a humble servant.”

Jennifer is now re-married to Brady Harrington. They have three children Jessica, Jordan and Peyton and live in Potterville Michigan.


Wings to Heaven


Jennifer Swanson Harrington


That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Colossians 1:10

Being in the center of God’s will was the focus of J. Fred Swanson’s life as long as I knew him. I had the privilege of being his wife for almost nine years. Fred and I met at Bob Jones University our freshman year and married a month after graduation. Fred was a student in missionary aviation and graduated with a degree in aviation and mechanics. He had a strong desire to fly, but his first desire was to be faithful to his savior.

Fred and I dedicated the first three years of our marriage to serving in a startup Christian flightschool in northern Wisconsin. Afterward we moved to my hometown of Oshkosh, WI to raise our two children and further Fred’s flight career. Oshkosh, is the center of the world’s largest experimental airshow, and home to the aviation ministry, “Wings as Eagles”.

We felt more in the center of God’s will than ever before. Fred’s career blossomed as he went to work for Basler Turbo Conversions, a company which converts DC3 piston engine aircraft into turbine engines. Fred began to fly regularly for the company. His flying took him to all four corners of the globe. He spent weeks and months in Thailand, South America, Greece, France and even 6 months in Antarctica. God’s blessings were abundant.

We were able to build a beautiful home, were raising our son and daughter near family, and were actively serving in our local church. I remember commenting to Fred one evening, “life is so perfect Fred.” He smiled and said, “Jennifer, remember, the trials will come, we need to be prepared.” How insightful Fred was. He made this statement just weeks before his untimely death.

On April 17th, 2001, God took Fred home. He woke in the morning, kissed us all goodbye as he drove off to work. An hour later, he was test flying an airplane that had been down for maintenance. Something went wrong. The engine quit and he lost airspeed causing the plane to plummet nose-first. Fred’ plane crashed just a few hundred yards from the end of the runway. I was in my high-school classroom teaching when I got a phone call from the company president. “Jennifer, Fred had an accident and he didn’t make it.” Somehow, I managed to call my parents and my pastor. We met at my school, and then drove to the schools where my children were attending. My daughter Jessica and my son Jordan were just 7 and 5 years old. The trials Fred talked about had come.

Arrangements, memorials and the funeral came and went, and then the grieving truly began. I questioned why. What had we done to deserve this? Were we not where God wanted us? There were so many questions and so much doubt and sadness. I sought counseling, seclusion and answers. I prayed, cried, prayed, cried and the cycle continued for months. I dealt with the range of emotions and questions inside myself as well as those of my two children. Eventually, God began to reveal some precious events that have helped in our healing. Fred’s funeral was by far the largest I have ever attended. Most of the high school I taught for and all of Fred’s coworkers were in attendance. We will never know all of the lives that were affected by his life’s testimony, but I have had many accounts from students, friends and family whose lives have changed because of God being glorified through a humble servant. My walk with God has also changed. God is truly the father to the fatherless.

But this story takes a dramatic turn. God’s plan was not complete. There were others who were waiting for God to work His will. In my grief counseling, I was directed to a web site for young widows. Here I found encouragement and true empathy. There are many young lives suffering due to the loss of a spouse, and on this web site I could relate, offer encouragement, vent feelings and grieve safely behind the screen. (This was certainly not the only source of outlet for my grief, but an important one.) It was also here, I met a young grieving widower named Brady Harrington. Brady had been through his own trial. He and his wife were in the delivery room birthing their firstborn child. Before their son was delivered, his wife Beth died due to an embryonic embolism. She never got to hold her son. And Brady was left to raise his infant son alone. But God was still in control. He directed our paths. We found comfort and compassion, and strength in helping each other through our pain and grief. Eventually we discovered there was life after death and God could bring love back into our lives. We married in November of 2002, merging two broken families as one. God has carried our sorrows on “Wings to Heaven.” God is good, His mercy endureth forever, blessed be the name of the Lord.


 A Father’s day photograph of Fred Swanson pictured with Jordan and Jessica


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