Herbert E. Jones

Jun 24, 2019
Herbert Jones

Stonington — A saying comes to mind immediately when thinking about Herbert E. Jones, affectionately known to many as “Dad” or “Papa.” ‘When you come into the world, the world rejoices and you cry; live your life in such a way that when you die the world cries and you rejoice.’ Truer words could not be spoken of the World War II veteran we all knew and loved. Early morning Thursday, May 30, 2019, while in home hospice surrounded by his family, Herbert ascended for the last time to join his wife, Colleen, in the heavens.

Herbert was born and raised in Stonington and often while growing up watched the seagulls in the bay, wishing he could join them in the air. His opportunity came about when he saved up and went for his first plane ride out of Stonington Harbor as a teenager. Shortly after he began his training and flew his first solo in 1942.

Herbert’s training continued as he joined the Army Air Corps and began basic and advanced training in 1943, then transitioned to fighter training in 1944. Soon after graduating from fighter training, he was asked to be a master instructor, a request that highlighted his aptitude for piloting an aircraft. Shortly after completing fighter training, he requested a transfer to the transport detachment, which resulted in C-46 Commando transition training until February 1945, when he was assigned to the Air Transport Command, flying “The Hump” over the Himalayas, a route that proved to be more dangerous than flying combat missions.

More aircraft were lost to inclement weather than to the Japanese throughout the course of the war. This route took the best of the best to complete, and Herbert logged well over 1,200 hours in a C-47 Dakota in every hazardous condition imaginable without fail. His experience and expertise by the end of his service allowed him to provide a service to the islands around his home, and in 1950 after a few years of fish spotting and instructing, he opened what would become Stonington Municipal Airport as a base for his new business, Stonington Flying Service.

During his time as CEO/chief pilot, he delivered supplies, mail, and provided an air taxi and an air ambulance to the residents of the surrounding islands. Many a night he would fly at a moment’s notice in inclement weather to provide a lifeline to those in need, often without compensation. In 1986 Stonington Flying Service was passed on to his son Charlie, who renamed it Penobscot Air.

The service is still in operation today under new ownership, Penobscot Island Air continues to provide many services laid out and developed by Herbert. After retiring in 1986 to spend more time with his family, Herbert continued to operate his own aircraft until its sale in 1994. In 2016, at age 92, he received the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award for more than 50 years of safe flying, a feat accomplished by less than 1 percent of pilots worldwide. Herbert loved to fly and was even recently working on his own aircraft, trying to get it airworthy again.

During his training he met the love of his life Colleen West, and was married Nov. 16, 1944. After his return from the war, they started a family, which soon became quite large, with 12 children. Herbert is survived by his children: Colleen, Marjorie, Bobby, Janet, Charlie, Kathy, Vera-Lee, Herbie, Timmy, Tommy, Linda, Katie; and more than 112 grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.

He was an amazing man with a multitude of stories and a heart of gold, the kind of man who would, without hesitation, give you the shirt off his back and never think twice. He was loved and considered a living legend in the aviation community, and he was a hero and inspiration to us all. His memory lives on in all those who knew him. Blue skies, Papa!

Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jun 26, 2019 14:46

WOW! Such a wonderful life! R.I.P. We should all live such a fruitful happy life!

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