Flight 99 Last Flights - In Memoriam

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Lt Col (USAF, Ret) Norman R. Vine (1936 - 2018)

Flight 99 Daedalian Norman Vine, Lt Col USAF (ret) Flew West on 25 May 2018 while wintering in Yuma, Arizona. Norm, the youngest of 3 boys, was born to Ole Jude and Bernen (Bernie) Stalhiem Vine on 5 July 1936. As a child he resided on the family farm and attended Southview School through the 8th grade, then attended high school in Wolf Point, graduating in 1953. Norm took flying lessons while attending MSU Bozeman and upon graduating from college he worked a short time at Boeing before joining the Air Force in 1958. He married Kay Woods in 1958; they had three children. In 1984, he married Pat Frood, and added another daughter to his family. After retiring from the Air Force in 1980, Norm flew a weather research T-28 aircraft for the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, where he gathered data about thunderstorms by flying through them. Most pilots avoid storms, and thus Norm earned the fitting nickname “Stormin’ Norman” from fellow pilots. In 1989 he returned to East Montana to farm the land that his mother’s family had homesteaded. At the time of his death he was enjoying retirement with his wife in sunny Arizona. Norm was preceded in death by his parents and only son, Howard. He is survived by his two brothers, Elvin and Delbert, his wife Pat, daughters Kathy (Brandon) Lund, Billings, Kelly (Marvin) Crusch, Joliet, and Joelie (Andy), Spokane Valley, Washington, 7 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren, with the first great, great-grandchild on the way. A celebration of Norm’s life will be held at a later date.

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Col (USAF, Ret) LEE A. MONGEON (1929 - 2018)

Flight 99 Daedalian Colonel (ret) Lee A. Mongeon, USAF flew West on 24 April. During his 26-year USAF career Colonel Mongeon flew the T-6, B-25, B-26, T-33, B-45, B-57, and the C-135. Lee graduated from Rhode Island State College and entered the US Air Force in 1952. In 1955 Mongeon was stationed in England as a B-45 pilot with the Air Force 47th Bomb Wing, carrying live nuclear weapons. in 1962 the US performed a series of 31 nuclear detonations under “Operation Dominic” at Christmas Island to test new weapons, as well as the reliability of stockpiled weapons. Minutes after a nuclear detonation, when the mushroom cloud was in full bloom, Mongeon and other sampling pilots flew directly into the heart of the cloud. After landing the planes were still highly radioactive; a forklift supplied a platform alongside the cockpit to allow the pilots to egress.
During the Vietnam War Mongeon flew RB-57s out of Tan Son Nhut AFB near Saigon flying highly classified low-level reconnaissance missions over Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. When Lee returned stateside in 1973 he was stationed at Malmstrom AFB, where he served as Commander of the 17th Defense Systems Evaluation Squadron whose EB-57E Canberras flew missions as “faker” target aircraft for F-102 and F-106 interceptors. After retiring in 1978 Lee and his wife, Terry, owned the Holter Lake Lodge until 1994.

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Lt Col (USAF, Ret) DON R. MAIN (1937 - 2018)

Flight 99 Daedalian Don R. Main, Lt Col, USAF (ret), Flew West on 7 March 2018 in Helena, MT after battling cancer. Don was born in Rochester, NY on 2 May 1937, the only son of Charles and Emma Main. He went to Irondequoit HS, and after graduating he attended Tufts University in Medford, MA where he studied engineering and joined the ROTC. After college he joined the Air Force and became a pilot. Don flew various planes, including the B-47, B-52G, C-119G, AC-119K, B-57C, RB-57F, and the T-39. He was particularly fond of the AC-119 Gunship, which he flew in Vietnam, and the RB-57F, which was used for high-altitude atmospheric sampling and radiation detection in support of nuclear test monitoring. After many years of flying Don hung up his wings and began working as a rapid runway repair engineer. After serving for more than 25 years in the Air Force, he retired in 1985 and began civilian life, where he worked for various companies as an engineering consultant. He enjoyed hiking, boating, and spending time with his family. Main lived in numerous places throughout his life, and he was an active member in each community, serving in the local Kiwanis and Elks Clubs and of course, the Order of Daedalians. A Vestry member of his church, he was a devoted Christian and loved serving the Lord. Don is survived by his wife of 54 years, Patricia (Patty) Main, his daughters and their spouses, Carla and Norm White, Robyn and Roy Barkley, and his two grandsons, Rudy and Rory Barkley. Don was laid to rest in his USAF uniform, and was interred at the Fort Harrison Military Cemetery in Helena at 1300 on Monday, 12 March. Our Flight Captain Jim Burman, along with Provost Marshal Rex Tanberg and Ken Inabnit, as well as Friend of Flight 99 Sam Birky were present for the interment. The service concluded with a twenty-one-gun salute, followed by a bugler’s playing of “Taps.”

Col (USAF, Ret) ROBERT C. LALIBERTE (1921 - 2017)

Colonel Robert C. ‘Bob’ Laliberte, United States Air Force (Retired), made his last flight on July 6, 2017. He was born Aug. 11, 1921, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the oldest of four children, to Cyril Victor and Kathryn Rita Healy Laliberte. When he was 12 years old, his mother passed away and his father relocated the family to Massachusetts, where he continued his education. On May 31, 1941, he was united in marriage to Catherine Mary Clifford and, together, they had seven children.

Colonel Laliberte enlisted in the Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet program in July 1942, and graduated as a pilot and Second Lieutenant Aug. 30, 1943. He attended B-24 bomber training and was assigned to the Central Pacific Theater of Operations in December 1943, where he completed a 30-mission combat tour. Returning to the United States in August 1944, he was assigned as an instructor in B-24 training for the duration of the war and reverted to Reserve Status in November 1945. Following the designation of the U.S. Air Force as a separate military service in 1947, he was recalled to active duty and assigned to service in Japan. He returned to the United States just prior to the Korean conflict for duty as a Flight Instructor in the Air Force Pilot Training Program. He served in that capacity until August 1955, when he was transferred to England, where he was a pilot and Operations Officer of a Fighter Bomber Squadron.

Returning to the United States in July 1958, he attended the Air Force Command and Staff College. Graduating from that institution in July 1959, he was assigned to the Air Force Inspector General staff for a four-year tour as a Tactical Operations Inspector examining the Readiness Status of Air Force tactical forces worldwide. In August 1963, he returned to England as Commander of a Tactical Fighter Squadron. In July of 1966, he was assigned to the Pentagon in the Air Force Operational Requirements Directorate, where he also served on a NATO Armaments Sub-Committee as the U.S. Air Force representative for the development of a VSTOL fighter aircraft.

In July 1968, he was selected to attend the Naval War College, from which he graduated in June 1969 and was assigned as Vice Commander of the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing at Bien Hoa Air Base, Republic of Viet Nam. There, he flew 245 combat missions in F-100 and A-37 fighter aircraft. Returning to the United States in September 1970, he served as Director of Operations of Air Force Flying Training Wing for a year before assuming the Vice Commander position of Air Force Recruiting Service. He retired from active service to Billings in June 1973. His military decorations include: The Legion of Merit with 1 Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster; Distinguished Flying Cross with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters; Air Medal with 3 Silver Oak Leaf Clusters; Air Force Commendation Medal with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters; Purple Heart; Airforce Ready Medal; and various other campaign and service awards. He was a life member of the Air Force Association, the Military Officers’ Association and the Order of Daedalians.

Following his retirement from the Air Force, he joined Yellowstone Electrical Company as an Estimator and Project Manager until retirement from this position in 1979. He then began active participation in the Wally Byam Caravan Club International, the Airstream Travel Trailer Club. He served successive terms as President of the Montana Unit and the Northwest Region of the club before being elected to its International President position in 1988. As such, he was instrumental in bringing the club’s annual International Rally to Bozeman for the fourth time in June 1989. This event contributed greatly to the state’s tourism success that year by the attendance of 3,461 travel trailers and motor homes at the rally, which took place on the campus of Montana State University in Bozeman. He and his wife Catherine traveled for 30 years throughout North America with their Airstream Travel trailers. They also enjoyed several overseas travel adventures to Europe, Asia, New Zealand and Australia, where they utilized the various recreational travel media in those countries. Between these travels, Bob also enjoyed his many years of volunteer service with St. Vincent Hospital, where he could be found at the Patient Information Desk.

Colonel Laliberte is survived by Catherine of Billings, his wife of 76 years; and six children, all of whom accompanied him on his assignments throughout the United States and the world. They are: Catherine (Bryan) Hay of Prairie City, KS; Margaret (Jon) Kerner of Los Gatos, CA; Sally of Chapel Hill, NC; Robert C. Jr. (Lisa) of Roundup; Susan (Greg) Vincent of Sebastopol, CA; and William (Beni) of Juneau, AK; 14 grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and a sister, Joan Draper of Pendleton, SC. He was preceded in death by his parents; his brother, William; his sister, Mary; and his daughter, Luan.

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MAJ (USA, Ret) RICHARD J. MUNRO (1925 - 2016)

Richard Jarvis “Dick” Munro Flew West on Sunday, 4 December 2016 at age 91. Dick was born on 14 November 1925 in Great Falls and graduated from Dutton High School in 1943. During the Second World War Dick served as a B-17 Tail Gunner in the 95th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force, US Army Air Corps, flying 28 missions over occupied Europe. After the war Dick married Mary Margaret Loch on 29 November 1946 in Leavenworth, Kansas.

Dick was admitted to study at Colorado State University, where he participated in Army ROTC and was a member of the Scabbard and Blade National Military Honor Society. While in Colorado he served in the US Army Reserve as a member of the Anti-Tank Company, 157th Infantry Regiment of the Colorado Army National Guard. Dick earned the distinction of Honor Graduate when he received his Commission and Bachelor degree in 1949. He would later earn a Masters from the University of Montana. Dick entered Naval Flight Training in June of 1949, and upon completing advanced training for fighter aircraft in 1951 earned the Wings of Gold of a Naval Aviator. While in the Navy Dick served in various Anti-Submarine, Electronics Intelligence, and Fighter Squadrons.

After his naval service Dick served in the Marine Corps Reserve for many years. He transferred to US Army Reserve Aviation, and then transitioned to the Army National Guard in Oklahoma, serving as both a fixed wing and helicopter pilot. He and former Flight 99 member Jim Barfknecht then served as part of the initial cadre of Montana Army Guard Aviation. In 1985 Dick retired as a Master Army Aviator, having amassed 41 years, 2 months, and 18 days of Active Duty, Reserve, and National Guard military service, plus over 11,000 hours of military and civilian flight time. Dick also helped to shape Big Sky Flight 99, contributing to the creation of its bylaws and serving admirably as our Flight Captain.

Dick’s civilian employment included work with the US Forest Service, and being a Ranger for Rocky Mountain National Park. He then worked for both the Colorado and Montana Departments of Fish and Game, the Montana Department of Aeronautics, and taught at the Federal Aviation Administration Academy. Dick’s final job was as a Park Manager for the US National Park Service.

During their lives together Dick and Mary were blessed with five children; their sons Gregory Scott, Richard Jesse, and Jonathan Eugene, plus daughters Margaret Sue “Marty”, and Kathryn Ann

MAJ (USA, Ret) JACK S. SMITH (1925 - 2016)

Flight 99 Daedalian Major Jack Sherwood Smith “Flew West” on 27 May 2016 at age 91. Like many of our Greatest Generation, Jack answered his nation’s call by becoming a military aviator in perilous times. Only 10 days after graduating from Boys Central High School in Butte, Jack was selected to enter US Army Air Forces flight training. After 60 hours in the PT-13 Stearman, followed by 300 hours in the UC-68, Jack transitioned to the Boeing B-17. He was initially assigned to the 8th Air Force, but this assignment was changed to Air Transport Command. Following the war, Jack remained in the USAF Reserve in an administrative role, reaching 20 years of service with the Air Force. In 1965 Jack joined the Montana National Guard (Army) and served for another 13 years, becoming a helicopter pilot and then flying a variety of rotary wing aircraft. Jack then married Clara Kober in 1951, and together raised three sons; Steve, Brad, and Mark. A longtime member of Big Sky Flight 99, Jack served as Flight Captain in 1999. He was also very active in the Kiwanis Club. His list of military aircraft flown include Boeing’s B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator, C-47 Skytrain, C-53 Skytrooper, PT-13 Stearman, UC-68, UH-13, UH-1 Huey, O1-A Bird Dog, U6 Beaver, H-46 Sea King, and the OH-58 Kiowa. Jack was laid to rest with military honors on Friday, June 3rd at the Montana State Veterans Cemetery in Helena.

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Gen (USAF, Ret) ROBERT C. MATHIS (1927 - 2016)

Flight 99 Daedalian General Robert Couth Mathis “Flew West” on 27 April 2016 at age 88, surrounded by members of his loving family. Bob was born in 1927 in Eagle Pass, Texas. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1948 after earning a Bachelor of Science degree and a commission as Second Lieutenant. By November 1949 Bob had completed pilot training at Randolph AFB and fighter training at Williams AFB. He was then assigned to the 51st Fighter Group in Okinawa, flying the F-80 Shooting Star as a Fighter Pilot with the 16th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron. He also served as a FAC with the 6148th Tactical Control Squadron. In addition to the Purple Heart, he received the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his combat tour in Korea. After the war, Bob served as an instructor at the United States Naval Academy. In 1956 he transferred to the Rome Air Development Center, Griffiss AFB, as Director of the Trinidad Test Site, where he played a major role in developing the Ballistic Missile Warning System, the Echo Satellite Program, and NASA’s Project Mercury Downrange Tracking Program. In 1963 he earned a PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas. He then served as a project officer in the Air Force Weapons Laboratory at Kirtland AFB, where he helped to develop nuclear weapons delivery systems. Bob completed the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in 1967, and then received orders to Vietnam. From October 1967 to November 1968 he flew over 200 combat missions, including a strike mission in the A-1 Skyraider for which he received his second Distinguished Flying Cross. He returned to the US in 1968. In August 1969 he was named Commander of the Rome Air Development Center, and then in 1971 he transferred to Wright-Patterson AFB, where he became System Program Director for the F-111 and the F-15. Bob served as deputy Chief of Staff, Systems, Air Force Systems Command from October 1976 to May 1977. He then became Vice Commander of AFSC, and then Vice Commander of Tactical Air Command at Langley AFB in March 1979. He was named the Air Force Vice Chief of Staff on 1 March 1980. On 1 June 1982 General Mathis retired from the US Air Force. Soon Bob and his wife, Greta, founded Eagle Mount, a nonprofit organization in Bozeman, Montana. Eagle Mount provides recreational services for people of all ages with physical and developmental disabilities, and summer camps for children with cancer. In his 38 years in uniform, Bob flew over 300 combat missions in Korea and Vietnam. His list of military aircraft flown totals 67 in all, including the T-6, F-80, B-25, A-1, F-111, F-15, B-52, B-1, and the SR- 71. Bob leaves behind 17 cherished grandchildren, including one of our 2015 CFIP cadets, Gunnar Madson.

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COL (ARNG, Ret) JAMES F. BARFKNECHT (1920 - 2016)

Colonel James F. “Jim” Barfknecht, Daedalian number 2918, has Flown West. On 24 March, Jim’s daughter Dee telephoned to let us know that her father had passed away that day at 1630. A WWII combat veteran, Jim served in the US Navy, Army, and the Army National Guard. He flew the TBF-series, SNJ, N25, H3N, L-19, L-20, C-45, H-23-B, H-13 series, and then the UH-1H.
The photo of Jim shown here was taken on the day they bombed Tokyo. There will be a detailed tribute to honor Jim in April’s Proceedings.

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Brig Gen (ANG, Ret) HAROLD E. JUEDEMAN (1931 - 2016)

Harold Eugene “Buck” Juedeman, Brigadier General, USAF, Flew West on 1 February 2016 after a two-month battle with acute leukemia. Buck was born on 11 May 1931 near Bristow, Oklahoma. After moving to Montana, Buck attended Geraldine High School. He graduated in 1948 and he soon attended Montana State College in Bozeman. He then enlisted in the US Marine Corps in 1951.
Buck was accepted into the Naval Cadet pilot training program in Pensacola, Florida. At the completion of carrier qualification and pilot training in September 1953, Buck was named an Honor Graduate, received his Wings of Gold as a Naval Aviator, and then earned his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. He flew a combat tour in AD-1 Skyraiders in Korea from February of 1954 to February 1955. In 1959, Buck joined the Montana Air National Guard in Great Falls, where he eventually flew the F-89, F-102 and the F-106. In 1957 he married Delores Fairbanks of Geraldine, and they soon welcomed sons Mark, Ward, and Kevin. In 1968, Buck and family moved to Great Falls, and he volunteered for a combat tour in Vietnam, flying the F-102. Buck was seriously injured in an aircraft mishap in Udorn, Thailand, but he eventually returned to full flight status. Daughter Corry completed the family when she was born in 1972. In 1976 Buck led an F-106 team that won the coveted William Tell trophy. He served as the Commander of the 186th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, and then Chief of Staff, Montana Air National Guard, retiring in 1986 after 35 years of military service. During his career Buck flew the SNJ Texan, SNB Beechcraft, AD Skyraider, T-28B Trojan, T-33 T-Bird, F9F-6 Cougar, F4U Corsair, F-89 Scorpion, F-102 Delta Dagger, and the F-106 Delta Dart. Funeral services were held 8 February at Saint Paul’s Methodist Church in Helena.

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Big Sky Flight 99 member Bill Sternhagen, resident of Helena, Flew West on 6 November 2015. Bill had been ill for some time. “Wild Bill” flew F-86 Sabre Jets in the Korean War, flying 52 combat missions and earning the Distinguished Flying Cross. He later completed the University of Montana Law School and then practiced Law for over 50 years.

An accomplished athlete and competitor, Bill was a 6-sport athlete in high school and played football for Carroll College under the legendary John Gillardi. Known as a “60 minute man”, he never left the field, playing the full game on both sides of the ball as halfback, safety, and special teams. “Wild Bill” loved to carry the ball and to tackle. Known at Carroll and across the conference as one of the “fastest and toughest ever”, he was inducted into the Carroll Hall of Fame and was twice named 1st Team All-Conference Halfback.

Bill is survived by his wife Joyce and children Bill, Ann, Joe, and Maggie as well as his sister Rita and numerous grandchildren and relatives.

A graveside service with full military honors was held at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, November 10, 2015 at Resurrection Cemetery.

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Lt Col (USAF) RICHARD S. O'BRIEN (1932 - 2015)

On 6 January 2015 Daedalian Richard “Buck” O’Brien took the final flight West at age 82. Buck was born on the O’Brien family homestead near Conrad on 11 October 1932. After graduating from Conrad High School, Buck entered Montana State College, earning a degree in agricultural engineering. Through ROTC he received a commission in the US Air Force. He became a fighter pilot, ultimately commanding a fighter squadron. He finished his fighter career piloting the F-89C “Scorpion” operated by the 186th Fighter Interceptor Squadron of the Montana Air National Guard.

Buck ran his family’s farm and he was named “Outstanding Young Farmer”. Buck was a volunteer in various organizations, serving as the Chairman of the Montana Aeronautics Board, a Director of the Pondera Bank, a member of the Benefis advisory council, and also the Pioneer Medical Center board. He was also a member of the Great Falls Symphony board for many years. Buck was highly active in politics and twice ran for a seat in Congress in the 1980s. After he retired from farming, he became successful in real estate.
A long-time Daedalian, Buck also belonged to the Quiet Birdmen.
Buck raised three children with his wife of 41 years, Anna Mae, who passed away in 1995. He leaves behind Nancy, to whom he was married for 18 years.
On 12 January Big Sky Flight 99 members Paul Snyder, Vincent Bakke, David Cameron, David Madson, and Phil Schroeder were in attendance at the First Congregational United Church of Christ for Buck’s funeral service. Buck’s ashes were later interred with traditional military honors at the Hillside Cemetery in Conrad.

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Maj (USAF, Ret) LAWRENCE R. CUNNINGHAM (1933 - 2013)

Whenever anyone told Larry Cunningham to "Have a good day!” he would always reply, “I’ve never had a bad one!”

Born 4 October 1933 in West Newton, Pennsylvania, Larry attended Penn State University. He married his wife, Aurelia, in 1956 and then embarked upon a career in the Air Force via the Aviation Cadet Program. He completed Basic and Primary Flight Training in 1956 as a member of Class 57E. He completed his Bachelor degree in General Science in 1965 through the University of Omaha. His aircraft qualifications include the F-86, F-84G, F-100, B-57, L-20, T-33, T-34, and the T-28.

An outstanding fighter pilot and tactical reconnaissance pilot, he accumulated over 4,800 flying hours and was a combat veteran in Vietnam, flying 150 combat missions. He received a Safety Recognition award for landing his B-57 aircraft with a nose gear that failed to extend. He also earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses, nine Air Medals, andtwo U.S. Air Force Commendation Medals.

During his career he was stationed at Laughlin AFB, Texas; Williams AFB, Arizona; Misawa AB, Japan; Minot AFB, North Dakota; Biggs AFB, Texas; Clark AB, Philippines; Da Nang AB and Phan Rang AB in South Vietnam; Griffis AFB, New York; Grand Turk Island; and finally, Malmstrom AFB, Montana. He retired from his twenty year Air Force career in December 1976, still flying his favorite aircraft, the B-57 Canberra, and as the Senior Air Weapons Director at Malmstrom AFB.

Larry’s wry wit and boyish sense of humor were his hallmark, and these were undimmed by time. He was respected as a generous and dedicated Daedalian by all.

Big Sky Flight 99 Daedalians Rex Tanberg, Jack Holland, Duane Hedahl, Phil Schroeder (and his son), Ray Koby, Jim Burman, Ed Mangis, Doug Henneman, plus Mr. Scotty Rae, attended the funeral services on Saturday, 21 September at the Corpus Christi Catholic Church. Upon leaving the seating area, they formed two columns as the casket was brought to the rear of the church. The church cover was exchanged for the Flag, and a salute was rendered. Ed Mangis recited the old Daedalian Poem, “Ode to a Deceased Daedalian.” A military honor guard presented the Flag to Mrs. Cunningham. A twenty-one gun salute was rendered, and taps was played.

Larry was laid to rest wearing his Daedalian jacket.