Donald William Brown, 97, of Meeker, Colo., passed away Tuesday, May 20, 2014, at his home. He was born to William H. Brown and Sara Mae Hull Brown in Julesburg, Colo., Feb. 24, 1917.
Mr. Brown is survived by his sister, Bonnie McFarling of Albuquerque, N.M.; son Phil E. Brown and wife Karin of Meeker; daughter, Dona R. Landacre of Bulverde, Texas; grandson Kevin J. Christofferson and wife Danielle, and children Shae and Presley; granddaughter, Kelly D. Osborn and her husband Chris, and children, Hayden and Zoey.
He is preceded in death by his parents; wife Ruth Q. Brown; two brothers, James and Earl Brown; and two sisters, Shirley Scheideman and Betty Ethridge.
Don was born on the family farm in eastern Colorado and lived in Kansas City while his father attended medical school. His dad set up practice in Denver. Don was graduated from North Denver High School and although he began pre-med studies at Denver University, he was smitten with flight.
While attending school and working many jobs to make a living, he spent every spare moment riding his bicycle to Denver Municipal Airport (later Stapleton International) for flying time. He convinced his dad that he knew he was born to fly and, in fact, Don was celebrated for 45 years in aviation when he retired in 1980.
Don was fascinated with all aspects of flight and became an expert on airframe and engine. He built his own airplane, the “Corben Baby Ace,” and taught aircraft engine and airframe maintenance at the Second Army Airforce Glider Training Detachment in Tucumcari, N.M. He also developed a new wing spar-splicing technique that changed repair protocol.
Although a childhood injury kept him from enlisting, he flew troops during WWII while serving as captain for Trans World Airlines. He was an inspector for the CAA (later to become the FAA).
Don and his wife Ruth moved around the country as his work dictated and, in 1946, settled in the panhandle of Nebraska. Together, they built air service businesses offering air ambulance, flight training and maintenance, agricultural spraying and dusting, pipeline patrol and charter.
During the blizzard of 1949, Don was a vital link for rural Nebraska, flying many hours dropping emergency supplies, food for trapped cattle and even flying an expectant mother to the hospital.
In addition to his air service business, he launched Trans-Nebraska Airlines, a commuter airline connecting Chicago, Denver and key cities in Nebraska.
His flight school, Mid-Continent School of Aeronautics, matriculated students from all over the world. Don was a distributor for Piper, Cessna and Citabria fixed-wing aircraft, and for Bell and Brantly rotor wing aircraft. He set an altitude record at Pikes Peak in the Brantly Helicopter. His pride and joy was a DC3 which was reminiscent of his TWA days, and he enjoyed flying locals to Nebraska football games. For his contributions to aviation, Don was inducted into the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame in January 2004. He often said that he never worked a day in his life, because he was doing what he loved.
When Don and Ruth retired to the beautiful White River Valley near Meeker, Don carefully planned resource and energy conservation into the design of the home they built into the land.
The design of their earth home included solar power, wood heat, spring water, and the huge garden which they meticulously maintained – all keeping them safe, happy and warm. In October 2009, Don moved to Bulverde, Texas. He was admired and respected for his practical approach to life, and he felt blessed to have many wonderful friends in all the places he had walked.
Don was a 50-year member and past master of the Grand Lodge AF&AM of Nebraska Golden Rod Lodge No. 306, and a member of the Rio Blanco Masonic Lodge No. 80 of Meeker. He was also a member of Tehama Temple A.A.O.N.M.S of Hastings, Nebraska, Shriners International, El Jebel Temple in Denver, Colo., and the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Orient of Nebraska, Valley of Alliance, Neb.. He was also a member and is a past worthy patron of Wenona chapter No. 28 of the Order of Eastern Star, Lodgepole, Neb., He was a member of the Lodgepole, Neb., United Methodist Church for 61 years.
A memorial service will be held July 25, 2014, at 11 a.m. at the Meeker United Methodist Church, 809 Park Ave., Meeker, Colo., 81641. Memorials to Don may be made to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America at www.alzfdn.org.
Please join us in celebrating Don’s life by visiting our memorial at www.zoellerfuneralhm.com.