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Living, Through Giving

How A Westminster Dad Honors His Son's Memory

April 4, 2018 was a day no parent wants to experience. On this day John Capra checked Facebook and saw a notification from his son’s college that started a feeling of concern. There had been an accident on campus. 

John’s son Zack, just 25 years old, was already a veteran of the U.S. Navy with two tours of the Persian Gulf aboard the USS Harry S. Truman under his belt. His Navy service had set him up to enroll at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida to earn his bachelors degree and a pilot’s license to fly commercial airplanes. 

As this day went on, John texted Zack’s phone and got no response. Later in the evening, a phone call came to John with the heartbreaking confirmation of his worst fears - Zack’s plane had crashed. He was completing his final check ride with an FAA examiner named John Azma, when one of the wings separated from the plane in midair. Both Zack and the examiner died as the plane crashed in a field across from the airport.

Though John, his wife Patsy, and their 4 other adult aged kids were beginning to process the grief of losing Zack, they were also learning about the impact their son left behind. “We were getting calls and texts from people nonstop for days,” sharing how Zack touched people’s lives. 

While they were on campus after Zack’s death, they met many groups and individual students who offered support, and shared his best attributes - how his compassion, hard work ethic, and family-focus rubbed off on them. One of his fellow students named Alyssa shared that she had to take a couple semesters off from college because she couldn’t afford tuition. 

That conversation planted the first seed of the concept which would become Tailwinds of Hope. 

“We cannot let Zack’s dream die,” John shared. Out of their grief, and with an outpouring of support that came from people around the family, John and Patsy decided they would keep Zack’s life and memory alive through other students. As Tailwinds of Hope was born, the foundation would exist to help students achieve their life goals and dreams through their college education through annual scholarship awards. Its name would signify how hope carries you forward from grief.

After just three years, Tailwinds of Hope has grown to being able to offer five significant scholarships every year. The largest is a $15,000 scholarship for a student enrolled at Embry Riddle. Four other $2,500 scholarships are also awarded, including one for Mountain Range High School students, aspiring tech school students, and a football scholarship to Adams State University, John’s alma mater. 

Tailwinds of Hope’s biggest annual fundraising event is the Captain Caps Golf Tournament. Set this year in August at the Greg Mastronia Golf Courses at Hyland Hills, John and Patsy hope to aim higher than last year’s incredible event. The 2021 Tournament had over 200 golfers participating to help raise over $32,000. This year, thanks to ongoing generous donations, the Embry Riddle scholarship will be fully endowed! 

Zack’s memory and life go on through every scholarship recipient of Tailwinds of Hope. To learn more, their web site is TailwindsOfHope.org.

  • Zack's supporters
  • John and Patsy Capra with a painting of Zack
  • Zack serving aboard the USS Harry S. Truman
  • Zack Capra flying
  • The 2021 Captain Caps Golf Tournament
  • A few golfers at the 2021 Captain Caps Golf Tournament
  • John and Patsy Capra and family at the 2021 Captain Caps Golf Tournament