Eugene M. Wickkiser
January 27, 1921 - April 27, 2016
Dedicated to Friends, Past and Present
Eugene M. "Red" Wickkiser, age 95, passed away Wednesday, April 27 2016, in Bellingham, Washington. Born in Walnut, Illinois on January 27 1921, raised on a 40 acre farm in Long Point, Illinois, oldest son of Harry and Vera (Wolfe) Wickkiser. Red joined the Illinois Army National Guard in high school and was called up at the start of World War II. While training with the infantry in the swamps of Louisiana, he thought it might be more fun to fly airplanes. He requested and qualified for Army Air Corps flight school and ended up Pilot in Command of B17 Bombers based in England. Completed 25 missions into Europe before the war ended. He later flew in the Berlin Airlift, and in the Korean War and received the rank of Major before being Honorable Discharged. Returning to civilian life, Red was hired by Transocean Airlines out of Oakland, California to fly for Iranian Airlines based in Tehran, Iran between 1953 and 1956. Following the contract in Iran, he flew Trans-Pacific Charter and scheduled service between Oakland, Hawaii, and the Orient. In 1960, he took a flying job for Southern Airlines based in Atlanta, Georgia, eventually becoming Assistant Chief Pilot in Memphis, Tennessee. He retired from Southern in the late 70's and moved to Port Orchard, Washington. While in Memphis, Red became a pleasure boat enthusiast, taking his progressively larger houseboats on the Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Ohio and Chicago Rivers as well as excursions on the Gulf Coast, and eventually on Hood Canal and Puget Sound waters. One of his retirement occupations in Port Orchard was driving the Kitsap Airporter to SeaTac Airport. During layovers at SeaTac he met Hank Brown who owned the Direct Transit shuttle service that operated between Bellingham and SeaTac. In 1985, at 64 years old Red bought the one van, two trips a day business from Hank and started his new career as successful business owner and Entrepreneur Extraordinaire, also on his business card he listed accomplishments as “Retired Airline Captain, Transportation Executive, Boat Captain, Buyer & Seller of Fine Automobiles, Lover of Women, Connoisseur of Fine Wine, Professional Intuitive Fractionator and Computer Bug & Glitch Finder”. Following retirement from Airporter Shuttle, Red lived in Vancouver, Washington and was the best friend and companion of Joy Porterfield. At 80 years old he owned and safely flew a 1964 Cessna 150, without benefit of current FAA physical or license. "I know how to fly an airplane." He was fiercely independent and had no fear. You’re free of those earthly bounds now Captain, off you go, into the wild blue yonder! Red is survived by his son, Larry and daughter-in-law Charlotte of Ferndale, Washington; sister, Doris Ragusa of Streator, Illinois and numerous nieces, nephews, and close friend Marilyn Gran. He was preceded in death by his wife of 50 years, Peggy; grandson Jesse; brother, Wally; sister, Ruth Wergen and his parents. Special thanks to the staff at Highgate Senior Living of Bellingham; Hospice of Whatcom County, and Peace Health St. Joseph’s Medical Center. No service is planned at this time. Memorial Donations may be made to Hospice of Whatcom County, 2800 Douglas AV, Bellingham, WA 98225. Charitable donations may be made to: Whatcom Hospice House, 2800 Douglas Avenue, Bellingham WA 98225.