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All obituary submissions for Air Force retirees must be accompanied by the full name, correspondence address, and daytime telephone number of an information point of contact. Submissions will only be accepted by e-mail. Please, no acronyms. Obituaries will remain posted until space limitations require removal.
Col. Robert J. "Shorty" Rankin, the first P-47 pilot to destroy five German ME-109 fighters in a single mission, passed away at his winter home in Jensen Beach, Fla., on March 14 at the age of 94.
Rankin dedicated 32 years of service to his country following his draft into the U.S. Army in 1941. Moving quickly from Army Air Corps flying cadet, through basic flight school, and into P-47 combat fighter pilot training, he was assigned to the 56th Fighter Group, otherwise known as "Zemke's Wolfpack," headed by the famous aerial combat leader Col. Hubert Zemke.
On May 12, 1944, Rankin shot down five German ME-109 fighters during a single combat mission. During that same battle, he destroyed an enemy plane attempting to shoot down Zemke. For his efforts, Rankin was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. By the end of his tour in August 1944, Rankin was credited with 10 aerial victories, one probable, and two damaged.
In 1950, Rankin served as the director of operations over the 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing in Korea, and over the next 11 years commanded six fighter-interceptor squadrons. He was promoted to colonel Nov. 9, 1963, and later retired as vice commander of the 20th Air Division on April 1, 1973.
Other military decorations include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters; the Bronze Star with one oak leaf cluster; the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters; the Army Air Force Commendation Medal; the Air Force Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster; the Presidential Unit Citation; and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with one oak leaf cluster.
Rankin, who flew a least 30 different aircraft types while serving his country, has spoken at numerous aviation events across the United Statees and Europe. At EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2007, he and German Ace Gunther Rall appeared at a special Warbirds in Review presentation. He also was part of the Aces Program that year at Theater in the Woods.
He was preceded in death by his childhood sweetheart and wife of 60 years, Louise, who passed in 2003. He is survived by his wife, Maree Krug Rankin, and two sons, Robert, of Homewood, Ill.; and Gregory, of Tampa, Fla.; and several grandchildren.
Patricia Ann Tanner Peek, age 68, of Schertz, Texas, passed away Nov. 24, 2012. Pat worked at Randolph Air Force Base for the past 30 years as a civil servant where she was chief of Air Force Retiree Services at the Air Force Personnel Center.
She is survived by her twin daughters: Peggy Ann Peek and Penny Ann Davis (husband, Mike); son, David Eugene Peek (wife, Kristy); and the children's father, Dr. Darwin E. Peek. Pat was loved as "Mam-ma" to seven grandchildren, Katie Davis, Nathaniel Peek, Jackson Clinesmith, Samuel Peek, Hettie Peek, Katie-Beth Peek, and Daniel Peek; and "Aunt Pat" to numerous beloved nieces and nephews.
To honor Pat, you may make donations in her name to Fisher House at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, a military housing assistance program for wounded veterans and their families at www.fisherhouse.org.
Retired Master Sgt. William "W.W" Watson, age 75, of Watha, N.C., passed away Nov. 17, 2012. He was the former director of the Retiree Activities Office at Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.
Born on Sept. 7, 1937, in Bladen County, he was the son of the late Herbert Owen and Addie Mae Sholar Watson. He was also predeceased by his daughter, Cynthia Lee Watson Hall and granddaughter, Amanda Lee Hall.
Sergeant Watson served his country honorably for more than 37 years in the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Civil Service.
Surviving to cherish his memory is his devoted wife of 54 years, Gloria Jean Teachey Watson; son, William David Watson and wife, Lola of Watha; daughter, Sharon Renee Watson Usher and fiancé, Jeffery Rivenbark of Rose Hill; grandsons, Staff Sgt. William Thomas Watson of Browns Mill, N.J., William Gerald Giddings and Matthew Dale Giddings, both of Rose Hill; granddaughters, Stephanie Lynn Hall of Bakersville, Calif., and Winter Faith Gregson of Sanford; brother, Floyd Allen Watson and wife, Barbara of North Augustus, S.C.; and numerous nieces, nephews and friends.
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Retired Col. Thomas L. Radke passed away May 3, 2012, at age 80, in his home in Lacey, Washington.
The colonel served in the Air Force for 29 years, retiring in 1980. After spending a year in Korea, he trained as a navigator, finding joy in flight and a career in Strategic Air Command from the early days of the B-52 program. He served at Harlingen Air Force Base, Texas; Castle AFB, Calif.; Altus AFB, Okla.; Barksdale AFB, La.; Kincheloe AFB, Mich.; Offutt AFB, Neb.; and the Pentagon.
Making Washington State his home after retirement, he continued his career at Boeing for another 14 years.
He is survived by Carmen, his loving wife of 56 years. And although he was career Air Force, he leaves behind an army of kids -- nine children who miss him dearly.
At his request, no public funeral services are planned.
Retired Senior Master Sgt. Joseph R. Sandoval passed away April 8, 2012, at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, after a long illness.
Sandoval served in the U.S. Air Force for 25 years, and his final position before retiring was as fire chief at Hahn Air Force Base, Germany.
Following retirement, he joined the Defense Commissary Agency team and worked as a commissary administrator in Germany at Vogelweh and Ramstein commissaries.
Married for 44 years to his wife, Francine, he was also the father of their two sons, James and Mathew.
He will be buried at the Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver, Colorado. Donations may be made to the American Cancer Research Society.
Retired Master Sgt. Joseph Richard "Dick" Payette, 68, of Naples, Fla., and a former longtime resident of Haverhill, Mass., died peacefully in his sleep early Oct. 29, 2011, at Physicians Regional Hospital in Naples.
Born in Haverhill, he was the son of the late Richard "Chummy" Payette and Rita L. Payette. After graduating from high school he joined the U.S. Air Force where he served almost 22 years. During his successful career he was fortunate enough to travel all over the world, often in the company of the then current U.S. Presidents, Nixon, Ford and Carter, serving on Air Force One for eight years. Upon retiring from the Air Force, he went to work for the Strategic Air Force Museum in Omaha, Neb. He worked at the museum for eight years before moving back to the East Coast.
Dick enjoyed helping people, traveling to foreign lands to experience new sites and learn a phrase or two from a new language, and long road trips in his van. He also enjoyed spending time at the beach and watching the sunset, fishing for and eating seafood, square dancing and round dancing, both of which he was quite good at. He enjoyed making friends and family members laugh at every opportunity.
Throughout his 12-year battle with lung cancer, Dick was a constant source of strength and confidence to everyone around him. He truly lived his remaining days to the fullest and never lost hope or his sense of humor.
He is survived by his wife, Joyce B. Payette of Naples, Fla., and daughter, Susan Whalen, and her husband, Ralph, their daughter Isis, and their son, Jake, of Peru, Maine; Sandra Hunter and her husband, Mark, and her son, Chance, of Raymond, N.H.; Sherry Holmes and her husband, David, and their children Tina and David Jr., and his wife, Megan, of Stark, N.H.; his niece Julie Daly, and her husband, Don, and their children, Courtney and Melanie, of Haverhill, Mass.; niece Nicole M. Barone and her daughter, Aliyah, of Plaistow, N.H.; great-grandchildren Katrina, Shayne, Cameron and Caroline; and many wonderful friends.
Also survived by his first wife and mother of his children, Anna L. Payette, of Omaha, Neb.; his son, Steven J. Payette, and his wife, Diana, of Woodacre, Calif.; and his daughter, Anna M. Davis, son, Tyler A. Davis, and Tyler's father, David A. Davis, of LaVista, Neb.
He was predeceased by his sister, Theresa Craffey, in 2005.
At his request, no funeral services are planned. Friends and family members are asked to observe his passing and celebrate his life on an individual basis.
Staff Sgt ,James Douglas Fordenbacher, who retired in 1995, passed away May 7, 2011, in New Windsor, N.Y.
Senior Master Sgt. Joseph W. Bernhard Sr. passed away Sept. 7, 2010. He specialized in aircraft management and scheduling. Sergeant Bernhard was preceded in death by his wife, Jill, in 2002. He is survived by his six children, many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and many family members in Georgia. He will be greatly missed.
Retired Chief Master Sgt. Arthur W. DeBaun Jr., died on July 28, 2010. He was a veteran of World War II, and editor of the Afterburner from 1981 to 1991. His editorial style greatly enhanced the publication. He is survived by his brother, a son and daughter, and three great-grandchildren.