Aviator Charles Lindbergh, wearing a helmet and goggles, is pictured in the open cockpit of airplane at Lambert Field, in St. Louis, Mo., ca. 1920s. File Photo by Library of Congress/UPI
KIPAHULU, Hawaii (UPI) -- Charles A. Lindbergh, who became the idol of millions when he made the first solo flight across the Atlantic 47 years ago, died Monday and was buried in a tiny churchyard on the island of Maui far from the crowds he avoided most of his life.
Lindbergh, 72, died at 7:15 a.m. in an isolated beach cottage overlooking the Pacific Ocean where he had chosen to spend his final days. His doctor, Dr. Milton Howell, said he died of a malignant tumor of the lymphatic system.
At his bedside were his wife, Anne, and son, Land.
Although the "Lone Eagle" was an idol to the generation that cheered his daring 33-hour and 29-minute flight from New York to Paris in the "Spirit of St. Louis" in 1927, he shunned publicity and public appearances after the kidnapping of his son in 1932.
He was buried in work clothes in a simple coffin hand made by the Hawaiian cowboys who were his neighbors in the village of Kipahulu on the slopes of the Haleakala volcano that in recent years had become his home.
Lindbergh had undergone treatment for several weeks at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, but at his request was flown on a stretcher to spend his last days on Maui. Howell said Lindbergh had planned the details of his funeral and burial himself.
Howell said Lindbergh "would like for his actions in coming to Hana and having a simple funeral to be -- in itself -- a constructive act."
In Washington, President Gerald Ford said he would be remembered as "one of America's all-time heroes and a great pioneer of the air age that changed the world."
"For a generation of Americans, and for millions of other people around the world, the 'Lone Eagle,' represented all that was best in our country -- honesty, courage and the will to greatness," he said.
Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey proposed that a national air and space museum now being built in the nation's capital be named in his honor.
Only 15 persons, close family friends and relatives, were present for the simple funeral services held at a century-old missionary church nine hours after Lindbergh's death.
The Rev. John Pincher, summoned from a neighboring church, read from the Apostle Paul at the grave and said a prayer, then the Hawaiian burial hymn was sung.
Citizens in Hana, of which Kipahulu is a part, lowered their flags to half mast in honor of the aviator who came here eight days before to die in peace.
Lindbergh was laid to rest in a 30-foot deep grave lined with lava rock and black beach pebbles in which his son, Land, placed a huge flower lei for his mother and a hibiscus flower for himself.
As the grave was being filled with dirt, the mourners, dressed in aloha shirts and flowery dresses at Lindbergh's request, tossed in orchid leis and coconut leaves. The churchyard is on a knoll overlooking the Pacific surrounded by overhanging native trees.
Lindbergh's flight, in a tiny monoplane through sleet and storms, was an epic adventure that was followed minute by minute by the world, waiting for some word on his fate. In his book, "The Spirit of St. Louis," Lindbergh told of his feeling when he spotted land:
"Is that a cloud on the northeastern horizon, or a strip of low fog -- or can it possibly be land? I stare at it intently not daring to believe my eyes, keeping hope in check to avoid another disappointment. ... The temptation is too great ... I can't hold my course any longer. The Spirit of St. Louis banks over the nearest point of land."
When Lindbergh landed at Le Bourget airport, carrying letters of introduction to people in Europe, he was met by a tumultuous welcome of hundreds of thousands of Frenchmen. He was congratulated by kings, queens and presidents. The attention that was focused on his flight was not matched until astronauts landed on the moon a generation or so later.
The adulation of "Lucky Lindy" turned to an outpouring of sympathy in 1932 when the Lindbergh's first son, Charles Jr., was kidnapped from his crib. Seventy-two days later, the 11-month-old baby was found dead in a clump of bushes not far from the Lindbergh's New Jersey home. Bruno Hauptmann, a carpenter, was convicted of the kidnapping and condemned to death.
In recent years, Lindbergh had maintained a private existence, only occasionally coming to public attention. Once he issued a rare public statement opposing construction of supersonic airliners. And in 1972 he participated in a Philippine expedition to the villages of a tribe of stone-age natives.
The cottage where Lindbergh died was about 11 miles from his home.
He was taken there because his house, down a dirt road, was too remote for the medical attention he required.