Doc Mosher, aviator and human being of the first order, passes into our memories.

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Near the end of the day, Charlie Becker from EAA headquarters called me to say that Doc’s short obituary was in the Oshkosh paper. It was the kind of thoughtful gesture Charlie is known for. He knew Doc well also, and understood that caliber of human being had just slid away from us. Doc had passed on Monday. He was 95 years old.

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For as much as it was expected, the news is still staggering. If you were fortunate enough to know him, you would understand that you could go your whole life and feel really lucky if you called just one or two people like him ‘friend’.

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His time in aviation spanned more than 75 years; He personally counted aviators like Paul Schweitzer, Dee Howard, Ed Swearingen, Olive Ann Beech, Paul Poberezny Bob Whittier and dozens of others as close personal friends. He was in very rare standing that he held both the FAA Charles Taylor master mechanic Award and the FAA master pilot award. You have to have a spotless 50 year record as a mechanic and pilot just to have your application considered by the FAA.

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If you own a copy of my Corvair manual, the forward in it was written by Doc. Over the years we worked on a lot of different writing and research projects, the best known being the long Pietenpol weight and balance series which later became the basis of my book on the topic. Doc improved my written work, and was the source of a lot of wisdom; He once said that you could tell a good writer by what he chose to leave out of stories rather than what he chose to put in them.

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If you knew Doc and his wife Dee as the editors of the Brodhead Pietenpol Association newsletter during its golden 7 year run, you are only looking at a small part of one of the later chapters in Doc’s life in aviation. I knew him as a very close friend and mentor for more than 20 years, and in all that time he didn’t repeat many stories. One evening each were the stories of being the first person to fly under the St. Louis arch and being the first person on the scene when Rolly Cole died in 1964.

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He never flew for an airline, but he amassed tens of thousands of hours of far more interesting flying. His long career as a corporate pilot and a demo pilot for Howard 500’s and Jet Commanders brought him to many more interesting places. He loved sailplanes, because Elmira NY was his home town. He held altitude records in 1-26’s and flew most of the classic light planes you have ever heard of.

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He had a very full life outside aviation; In his early years he knew many of the greats in Jazz. In his office he had many pictures of NYC Jazz clubs in the 1950s, and he was close friends with men like Thelonious Monk; He was James Browns corporate pilot in the 1960s, he knew Cesar Chavez well. The bar he and Dee had in Colorado made them tight with Hunter S. Thompson. There was no evening spent with Doc that you didn’t come away with the sense that his integrity, skill and charm had opened many doors and made countless lasting connections in life.

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His knowledge of all things aviation was exceeded by his understanding of people; he was a great humanitarian, he judged no other person unless they inflicted harm on others. He understood that people are flawed, but always knew then it was fair, possible and perhaps in their interest that you demand more out of them.

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He was incredibly well read, and he had a photographic memory. He like to study things in very close detail, to really understand the the factors in an issue. An easy example: I have never encountered anyone, not even the Notre Dame Phd trained Theology department chair I studied under, who was better read on all major religions, including sects; Doc knew virtually all facets of Christianity and 6 or 7 other major faiths. There was little he couldn’t tell you about the the lives of Luther and Aquinas, he also knew the Bhagavad Gita and the Koran, as well as the beliefs of Sikhs and Buddhists. He spent decades studying the world faiths to better understand history and people, the depth of his knowledge was more astounding when you learned that he was an absolute Atheist.

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He had a very easy going external manner, but could quietly take the measure of most people in a few minutes. He could act in with a clear head in a crisis or shocking moment; at the 2004 SAA Urbana fly-in man was killed taking off in a homebuilt. His wife had started a 6 hour drive home 30 minutes before. It was Doc who told the 30 people on hand to “Put your damn phones away” and not tell anyone off the field there had been an accident, he was the only person who instantly understood that there was a woman who still had 5 hours to drive home, and if no one called anyone, she would likely make it all they way back to family before her phone rang and she found out she was a widow.

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Its near midnight now, and If I made a pot of coffee I could still be typing things about Doc when the sun comes up tomorrow, but instead I’m going to close this and go get a beer out of the fridge and sit alone on my front porch and stare into the night and think about how fortunate I was to know Doc. I have a life rich with good friends, but none of them would be offended if I say that Doc’s absence is a wound in the heart that no one else can bandage. He was one of a kind, and now he is gone.

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Blue skies and tailwinds Doc, my life was far richer for the great fortune of having known you. You brightened the lives of nearly everyone you encountered, a rare claim indeed.

William

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4 Replies to “Doc Mosher, aviator and human being of the first order, passes into our memories.”

  1. Awesome message William. I will share a beer with you here in Texas on the Honor of Doc!!!

  2. I talked Piets with Doc at Brodhead and Oshkosh several times over the last fifteen years. He was always friendly, gracious, knowledgeable and just a decent human being.

  3. There is much to be said for living a life of meaning, and a life well-lived is a treasure. I am reminded of the well-known line from the end of “The Bridges at Toko-ri”, as Admiral Tarrant describes the pilots who flew off his carrier to go to war, “Where do we get such men…..?” It is a question for the ages, and fortunately, the ages seem to supply them just when they are needed to guide and inspire the rest of us. Where indeed do we get such men…..

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