GEORGETOWN, Ky. (LEX 18) — Former University of Kentucky football player Nick Melillo met his wife Katie in 2014.
“For me, at least, it was love at first sight,” Melillo said. “The patience, the grace, the selflessness that she exhibited and lived out every single day is second to none.”
Their relationship blossomed beautifully. They married in 2017, and they were happy.
But right before their one-year wedding anniversary, Katie was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.
“It was the first time in my life that I wasn’t able to run through a brick wall and make everything okay,” Melillo said.
Before the diagnosis, Melillo was planning on getting his private pilot license, which costs about $10,000.
With Katie in treatment, it wasn’t really financially viable. But Katie wanted her husband to follow his dreams.
“It was around July and she was starting to feel better. Katie called my dad and asked him, ‘Hey, how much does flight school cost?’” Melillo explained. “Katie wanted to get a second job just to help out so we could afford flight school. And I didn’t know that.”
Katie Melillo passed away on October 2, 2019. Nick Melillo found out about his wife’s efforts after her death. He said her love and thoughtfulness inspired him to do more than just get his pilot’s license.
Melillo opened his own flight school in October 2020, ‘Katie’s Wings Aviation’ in honor of his wife.
“Through the flight school you have to be with students. You have to have patience, you have to have grace, you have to have humility and all of those things that Katie lived out every day. That’s what I’m trying to live out every day through the flight school and give to my students, that listening ear and patience,” Melillo said.
Katie’s Wings Aviation operates in partnership with the Georgetown-Scott County Regional Airport. It is open to all levels of experience and offers instruction for private pilot licenses, commercial pilot licenses, instrument licenses, CFIs, and CFIIs.
Melillo said he has plans to establish a non-profit for Katie’s Wings Aviation that would offer scholarships for low-income students who want to learn to fly.
“Aviation is expensive,” Melillo said. “With the non-profit, our hope is that in our first year we can sponsor a student to take them all the way through their private pilot license.”
With all this work, Melillo is hoping to honor his wife’s legacy and show others the same kind of support Katie showed him.
“I just think she’d be really proud. I think about every time I’m up, whether it be with a student or I’m flying the plane by myself, that I just know that she’s smiling and she’s happy and that for me is enough. That’s what makes it all worth it,” Melillo said.
You can learn more about Katie’s Wings Aviation and how to sign up for flight lessons on their website.