Hood River's flying fighter ace was applauded by more than one million people on New Year's Day, an experience he found to be "almost scary."
On Jan. 1, Ken Jernstedt and his guide dog, Driscoll, were special guests on a prize-winning float in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade. That event was viewed by a television audience of more than 350 million people in 80 different countries.
But the highlight of Jernstedt's trip to California wasn't the parade notoriety -- that came with the opportunity to meet J. Frank Moore III, president of the International Lions Club, a service organization that Jernstedt has strongly supported for many years.
"He was a very nice fellow and I really enjoyed meeting him," said Jernstedt.
In spite of a broken axle that stalled the float midway through the parade and a long delay at the airport when he first arrived in Pasadena, Jernstedt, 84, said the experience is one he will savor -- but isn't likely to repeat.
"I'm getting a little old for that much action, but I wanted to help out Guide Dogs because it's a good organization," he said.
Guide Dogs for the Blind selected Jernstedt to ride on its first-ever Tournament of Roses float because of his distinguished military service in World War II and in the state legislature. Six years ago Jernstedt, who is legally blind, attended "dog college" in Boring and brought his yellow lab home after learning handling skills through Guide Dogs, the largest school of its kind in the United States.
Jernstedt has never allowed his sight impairment to slow him down and he and Driscoll are a familiar sight on Hood River streets.
The bond between the pair has grown so tight that Jernstedt recently said he would not take his eyesight back if it meant he would have to give up the canine.