Faller honored on first day of school

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Faller honored on first day of schoolA fallen hero who paid the ultimate sacrifice was honored on the 40th anniversary of his death by a school that now bears his name.

The staff, students and families of Faller Elementary School held a ceremony on Aug. 13 — incidentally the first day of school — to remind the community of Lt. Cmdr. Theodore “Ted” Faller.

Faller was flying his QF-86 Sabrejet over the valley when his aircraft suffered an engine failure moments after takeoff. Because of the residential population he was flying over, Faller chose — instead of ejecting — to guide his plane to a vacant lot near what was Ridgecrest Heights Elementary School.

Faller was reportedly conscious and alert after the crash landing, but could not get out of his harness. Civilians who arrived on scene before first responders attempted to help rescue him, but were driven back, and burned, by the intense heat from the crash. Faller ultimately succumbed to his injuries. He was 36.

Faller’s wife was presented with a posthumous Distinguished Flying Cross, and the elementary school near his crash site was renamed in his memory.

“The staff and I believe it is important for our students to understand the meaning behind their school name,” said Principal Melissa Christman.

The school has a painted portrait of Faller, as well as a display in his honor. Members of the Faller family regularly visit, and the staff keep in touch and send school shirts to them each year.

“Mrs. Betty Faller-Pearson, the lieutenant commander’s widow, called right after the earthquakes to check on how Faller held up,” said Christman.

Faller School’s library theme this year is “Every Hero Has a Story,” based on the fallen aviator and other local heroes.

For the ceremony, Christman was joined by Petty Officer 1st Class Jason Pardee, whose association is joining Faller in a Partnership in Education this year. Pardee and other uniformed military were on hand for the flag-raising. Faller 5th grader Avelina Guzman sang the National Anthem.

“A tribute is when you show gratitude, respect and admiration,” said Christman during her remarks at the ceremony. “Today, we are displaying our gratitude, respect and admiration to Lt. Cmdr. Faller. We are recognizing a hero who was courageous and valiant.“He was a man of fine character. He was trustworthy, respectful, responsible, fair, caring and a model citizen. Because he was a man of character who served his country and sacrificed his life, we honor him today and every day by having our school named after him. Lt. Cmdr. Theodore H. Faller will always be a true hero.”

Pictured: The Faller Elementary School student body participates in a ceremony in honor of the hero their school is named for — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2019-08-16