April 7, 2013 in Obituaries

Obituary: Gilbert, Fred R.

 


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GILBERT, Fred R. (Age 93) Fred Gilbert, a man much respected and admired by all who knew him, sadly passed away on March 16th. Fred was born in Chicago in 1919 but moved to southern California with his family at age four. In his teens Fred used to watch airplanes fly in and out of the Burbank airport. This pastime inspired a lifetime in aviation. Fred attended Fullerton Junior College and Long Beach Junior College obtaining his pilot’s license in the College Pilot Training Program (CPTP) in 1940. He joined the Army Air Corps in 1941 as an aviation cadet, graduating in July of 1942. He then received additional pilot training in Texas before being assigned to the 305th Bomb Group and sent to Chelveston, England, in October of 1942 to fly bombing missions over Europe. He commanded a B-17 Flying Fortress with a seven man crew and was one of the first ones in with the 8th Air Force. With a 75 percent casualty rate, Fred was one of the lucky ones to make it back. Fred completed his combat tour in October of 1943, and then returned to the U.S. where he was assigned to the Air Transport Command, 5th Ferry Group, in Great Falls, Montana, until the end of the war. It was during this time that he met and married his beautiful wife Dolores, known to most as Dee. He was then assigned to Strategic Air Command at Smoky Hill Air Force Base, Salina, Kansas, for four years, before being discharged in 1950. Fred continued his aviation career by going to helicopter school on the GI Bill in 1951 at Johnson Flying Service in Missoula, Montana. He then performed agricultural work in Washington and Oregon for two years in a self-employed partnership arrangement using two leased helicopters. During the early years of commercial helicopter use, Fred worked overseas in oil exploration, seismic work, offshore platform operations, and sling work in New Guinea, India, Pakistan, Borneo, and Venezuela. In 1958 Fred returned to the U.S. with his family and went to work for the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). For the next 25 years Fred flew out of Spokane, flying year-round power line patrol for BPA on the eastern side of the Cascades. In 1983 he retired from BPA and moved to Maui, Hawaii, with Dee. However, he missed flying and was soon tempted out of retirement. He went to work flying tourists for Kenai Helicopters, and then for Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. Fred’s flight hours for military fixed-wing are 2,500, and his flight hours for helicopters is logged at over 25,000. He was the consummate pilot and a true aviation pioneer, much revered in his field. Fred retired again at the age of 75, and he and Dee moved to Arizona. After the passing of his wife, Fred moved back to Spokane to be closer to his daughter and sons, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He lived independently and happily at Fairwood Retirement Community for the past 8+ years where he made many fine friends. His passions during these years were playing bridge weekly with his dear bridge partner Marlys and the Spokane Bridge Club Unit 448, and riding his bike. His neighbors and special baristas will miss seeing him on his daily rides. His mind was sharp, and he stayed active until the very end of his earthly journey. Fred is survived by his daughter Odette and husband Bill, son Mark and wife Nancy, son Gary and wife Tani, ex-daughter-in-law Judi; his grandsons: Jason, owner of J.R.Helicopters, Adam and Justin; his granddaughters Maddie and Meadow, and his six great-grandchildren: Shea, Caden, Jaelyn, Kairo, Jada, and Arlan; and his nieces Lorna, Janice, Julie, Robin, and Randi. Fred’s cremation was handled by Smart Cremation through Hennessey Funeral Homes. There will be a memorial later in the spring for family and friends to commemorate Fred’s amazing life. He had a good run and made a huge contribution to the world. He will be greatly missed and definitely not forgotten. He’s onto a new mission now.

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