Russell F. Ireland, Col. USAF (ret.), age 91, passed away suddenly on the afternoon of Christmas Day 2008 at his home in Marion, North Carolina.
Russ was born January 10, 1917 in Houston, Texas. He was in the ROTC program at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and later joined the Merchant Marine.
Family lore has it that during a particularly rough passage around Cape Horn, the sight of an airplane flying serenely overhead prompted him to consider aviation as a way of life.
He entered the Army Aviation Cadet training program in 1940 and when ordered to Active Duty, became a flight instructor in AT-6’s at Mather AFB in Sacramento, California.
While stationed at Mather, he met a pretty, young Army Nurse named Roberta Noe, who became his wife of 65 years.
Russ flew bombing missions in B-29’s on the Pacific Front until the end of WWII. He flew air refueling operations out of Japan in the Korean War, and helped establish the 320th Air Refueling Squadron. He held the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, and numerous other decoration from his 26 years of active duty in the Air Force.
Over the course of his career, he logged more than 11,000 hours flying 46 different types of aircraft and never lost his passion for aviation.
After his retirement from the military in 1966 he established a flight instruction program at Central Missouri State College and remained an active flight instructor well into his ’70s.
He was an active member of the Episcopal Church and a lifelong Mason.
Russ is survived by three sons, Michael of Marion, NC, Terrence of San Diego, CA and Robert of Mount Shasta; eight grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
There will be a brief memorial service at Mt. Shasta Memorial Park May 9 at 2 p.m. for Russ and Roberta, both of whose ashes will be returned from North Carolina for interment. All who knew them will be welcome.