Although he lived in Payette and went to school at Payette Primary, outside of school hours Cash Troyer spent most of his time in Ontario.
Anybody who visited the Ontario Airport, especially when school wasn’t in session, likely met Tom Frazier’s grandson Cash.
Cash was a fixture there since 2013. He moved to Payette with his mother when he was about 5, the year after his grandpa settled in as a fixed-base operator at the airport. He and his mother, Toiresa Frazier, came to the area from La Grande to help Tom after he had open heart surgery.
Frazier Aviation serves everything from corporate jets to general aviation, as well as the BLM Tanker Base, and Cash was involved with every aspect possible. He was a hands-on helper who, in addition to getting to know all the pilots who flew in, was passionate about learning everything he could. This included every detail of their airplanes, including where they flew in from.
But his time at the airport was cut short on June 3, when 9-year-old Cash and his 7-year-old brother, Grady Troyer, of La Grande, drowned while on a rafting trip with their father on the Grand Ronde River in Wallowa County.
Revered by pilots
Cash left a lasting impression on countless people — especially the pilots who flew in and out of the airport over the years he spent there.
“His favorite thing was making a connection with pilots,” said Toiresa, who is also the office manager, janitor and fueler, in addition to a host of other duties, at Frazier Aviation.
About 1,000 people attended Cash and Grady’s simultaneous funeral service on June 9 in Island City. This was followed by a graveside service in Lostine later that evening where the boys were laid to rest together. There were a number of pilots at the funeral, Tom said, including some from as far away as Delaware and Pennsylvania.
Among them was Parker Lucas, a pilot who did part of the eulogy for Cash.
“While Cash and I have connections from here in the valley, our story — like many of those who knew Cash — began at an airport,” he said in the eulogy.
Lucas first met the boy while on fire assignment, but recalled hearing about him as the “cool kid in a flight suit,” even before he landed at the Ontario Airport.
Cash took fire season so seriously, that he had several flight suits he would wear during the season. He even learned how to load fire retardant, and helped wash off the planes. One of his flight suits had a Pilot in Command badge on it that was a gift from an initial attack pilot.
“In aviation we meet a lot of kids … but none like Cash,” Lucas said. “Cash was special. A happy soul in a league of his own who received his wings too soon.”
Brian Rindlisbacher, Ontario Air Base Manager for the BLM Seat Base, recalled Cash attending morning briefings during fire season, where he would sit and listen intently.
In addition to being very knowledgeable in many aspects, Rindlisbacher said, Cash was “one of those kids that made everything fun here,” adding that the pilots loved talking to him.
At the tanker base, Cash helped himself to the pilot snacks and candy, Lucas said. And although his mother requested they limit his sugar while visiting, “every pilot I know paid extra into the snack fund” to stock the boy’s favorites, such as licorice and Otter Pops.
Their admiration for the child ran deep. In fact, Toiresa said, one of the pilots left him a special firefighting coin before the last fire season started.
“He fit in really well with pilots in our group,” Rindlisbacher said. “We considered him one of ours.”
Cash didn’t just talk to them at the airport, he corresponded with them through writing them frequent letters, as well.
One of the boy’s mentors, according to Tom, was Gene Sullivan, a pilot out of Fresno, California, who flew a Gulfstream G450 jet.
“Gene really took to Cash and said he saw himself in Cash and could see Cash doing whatever he wanted in aviation because of his demeanor and involvement,” Tom recalled.
Passion for flying
In addition to getting to see the inside of numerous aircraft, Cash would fly with his grandfather as often as possible.
“He’d come to me and say, ‘Grandad, don’t you think we should go flying?’”
Together, they flew over places such as the Owyhees, the Idaho backcountry and Red’s Horse Ranch in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, that Tom once ran, and where Cash’s parents first met.
His passion for planes extended beyond the airport, too. Toiresa said the boy didn’t gravitate toward cartoons, but rather “Destinations Unknown,” and other aircraft related TV shows, such as “Flying Wild Alaska,” “Airplane Repo,” and “Keepin’ Up with the Joneses,” a series about a family of Australians who ranched with helicopters.
“The world was open to him,” Toiresa said of her son. “He could see himself doing whatever he wanted.”
The young boy even helped out with events at the airport.
A prime example was during the eclipse, Tom said, when Cash led planes to their respective parking spots with follow-me signs.
He would also haul people and their luggage, a job once done in a golf cart that was eventually replaced with a four-seat Gator.
“He was gifted and knew and understood safety,” Tom said. “I never ever worried about him.”
Ron Hanks, director of Aviation Technology for Treasure Valley Community College, knew Cash well and said the boy’s vast knowledge would have led him to being “a natural pilot in his own time.”
“Cash was the airport kid,” Hanks said.
He described the boy as always interested and helpful, adding that he often pitched in.
Because of this, Cash got a special treat once a glider was brought to the airport.
“He earned a ride on the glider by helping,” Hanks said. “I was glad to give him a ride and get him engaged.”
Cash was “very involved with the entire glider program,” for TVCC, Tom said, and knew how to hook it up and what had to happen.
Furthermore, Cash helped coordinate and lead student activities, such as aviation field days and STEM events.
For one of those events, on May 16, in which 110 third-graders from Payette Primary School visited the airport, Cash got pilot approval to show students around on truckstop.com’s Beechjet 400A, according to Tom. He got to plug in the ground power unit, turn on the master switch and explain the jet to his classmates.
When Cash and Grady drowned, they were on a typical outing with their dad. In fact, it was just shy of a week from Grady’s 8th birthday.
“They were constantly in the mountains,” Toiresa said. “They were riding four-wheelers, fishing, hiking around — busy making memories.”
Whether it was on family outings or working with their dad for his commercial landscaping business, their father Clint Troyer said, “We were as close as you could be, the three of us”
As will be with children, sometimes they would argue, but Troyer said the brothers “absolutely loved each other and didn’t want to do things without each other.”
He recalled Cash’s sadness during a trip to Red’s a couple years back taken without Grady, and the request to make sure his younger brother came along the next time.
So early this spring, Troyer chartered a plane which flew the boys into Red’s. It was a particularly proud moment for both Cash and Troyer, he said.
“Red’s is a very special place to all of us,” Troyer said.
Cash spent the whole weekend showing Grady all the places he had missed during the previous outing.
Troyer added that when the horse ranch was open — he worked there for Tom for two years — he would dream about having his own kids back there. Although that didn’t work out, it was a big deal to introduce the area to his sons.
On that trip, there was a night when it didn’t look like the weather would hold out, “so we took screws off one of the old cabin windows [now closed and owned by the Forest Service] and crawled in and stayed that night,” Troyer said. “The boys thought that was the coolest thing ever.”
The accident happened months later about 25 miles downstream from that spot.
Troyer described it as “the worst possible thing that could ever happen.”
They took off on June 2 — a Saturday — and camped that night. On Sunday morning, the trio put into the river.
Forty-five minutes into their rafting trip — not the first they’d ever taken together — the day took a turn for the worse.
Minutes before the accident they were enjoying the scenery, which included a flock of about 100 pelicans, something Troyer said he’d never seen in that area before.
Then the awe of nature quickly vanished.
“We hit a rock and they were both just gone instantly,” Troyer said while crying.
He spent a split second trying to get the raft off the rock, he said, then realized “it was gonna take more time than I had,” and jumped in after them.
“I went as hard as I could to catch them and I just never could make it,” Troyer said, his voice trailing off.
There is some kind of peace in knowing the boys are together, he said.
“The fact that they’re together gives me peace,” Troyer said.
Family members described both boys as having a passion for life.
“These boys touched a lot of lives in a really profound way,” Troyer said.
Each had their own personalities, he said. Cash was very cautious and didn’t like to take risks, and on the other hand, his brother was an adrenaline junky with the throttle buried, he said.
“Cash was super special and Grady was one of those kids that made you glad you were alive.”
At the airport, there are medals in a shadowbox on the wall and on top of it sits a card to Cash that Oregon Sen. Betsy Johnson had sent along with a flight jacket. On her hand-written note, Johnson, who had met Cash several times, expressed her appreciation for how helpful the boy was when she and her colleagues were at the airport.
“Consider this an early Christmas present,” it reads. “Every pilot needs a great flight jacket.”
Toiresa said Johnson was one of the first people who called her when she heard the news.
Although Tom – who Troyer said was like a second father to Cash – and Toiresa haven’t decided on anything for certain yet, they have discussed putting up some kind of memorial to honor Cash at the airport. Tom said they might do something with a pedal plane that Tom got for Cash on his 3rd birthday.
“He about wore it out,” Tom said smiling at the memory. “I put three sets of wheels on that.”
The plane has since been pulled down from an overhead storage area and is now sitting in an airport hangar.
“He was absolutely a very gifted child in the way he had such a passion for life, adventure and learning,” Toiresa said. “There wasn’t anything about him that was stagnant.”
Cash’s memory will be kept alive by the community as well. Hanks said that TVCC is in the process of organizing a scholarship fund in Cash’s name that will be dedicated to helping youth who intend to enter an aviation career.
In addition, a fund has been set up at Mission Aviation Fellowship in Nampa, Tom said. This is an organization that does missionary work all over the world.
Cash wanted to work for Mission Aviation at some point, Tom said, or fly a helicopter or fixed-wing plane.
The boys had different mothers, however Troyer said, it didn’t complicate things when it came to planning end-of-life details for the siblings.
“The biggest gift the boys gave us out of this whole deal was it brought a lot of us closer together than we’ve been,” he said. “It could’ve tore us apart, but it didn’t.”
Although moving forward is difficult to think about and even harder to talk about, Troyer said many people have asked him what he plans to do. This has included whether he plans to close up his commercial landscaping business, where the boys spent endless hours with their dad. But he doesn’t feel closing shop would honor his sons.
“They were so proud to be grassmasters,” he said, adding that he just can’t stop, as that’s not how his sons would have wanted things to go.
“The thing is, I told both mommas, ‘We have a choice: we can crawl in a hole and pull the door in after us and stay there, or we can live for these boys.’”