Richard O. Gladish
1931 ~ 2018
Captain Richard O. Gladish, age 86, passed away peacefully Monday, Aug. 20, 2018 in Lewiston, Idaho. Dick was born Sept. 22, 1931 at Colfax, Washington to Oscar Elijah and Janet (Riley) Gladish, the third child of three sons and a daughter. He grew up in Pullman, Washington where his father was principal of Pullman High School for 32 years. Dick excelled in science, band (baritone/euphonium), and shop. In those years many western high schools had competitive student marksmanship teams, this was a good match for Dick who participated and earned high marksmanship awards in both high school and college.
The Gladish parents instilled in Dick a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility that he carried throughout his life. He became a methodical thinker, so it is no surprise that he opted to study mechanical engineering at Washington State College (WSU). Dick also enrolled in WSC aviation classes which led to flight instruction – he was on the road to being hooked by flying. Air Force recruiters were often combing college campuses for healthy young men just like Dick; on Nov. 16, 1953, he entered the Air Force as an Aviation Cadet.
Dick’s Air Force service that followed was lengthy and fragmented. He received basic pilot training at Malden AFB, MO, followed by advanced training at Vance AFB, OK. On Feb. 23, 1955 he was awarded his silver wings and 2nd/Lt. commission. Thereafter he was off to Palm Beach AFB for specialized training in the C-118 (DC-6) before heading north to the 58th Air Transport Squadron (ATS) at McGuire AFB. Dick thereafter flew the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) C-118; often assigned to fly the much sought after MATS Embassy Runs (known to some as Uncle Sam’s blue suited airline.) During these early years at McGuire AFB, Dick married Carol Ledeman. Because flying the C-118 with MATS was similar to airline flying, there existed an unofficial flow of Air Force pilots from C-118 squadrons to civilian airlines. In a feat of incredibly tight scheduling, Dick was released from active duty on July 14, 1959 and hired by Northwest Airlines the very next day on July 15, 1959.
In the pre-jet 1959 era, NWA copilots started their careers with the DC-3, DC-4, and later upgraded to the DC-6 and DC-7. There existed a progression through the lineage of ever larger propeller multi-engine aircraft, including of course the DC-6 with which Dick was already familiar. In October of 1961 Dick was laid off by NWA; given his family responsibilities he opted to return to the active Air Force. This time Dick returned to the 30th Air Transport Squadron at….. again McGuire AFB where he served until May 1964 when recalled by NWA.
During his NWA career Dick was based in both MSP and SEA. He would fly captain on the Lockheed Electra, Boeing 727, DC-10, and the classic Boeing 747. In 1980 Dick and Carol decided to part ways and eventually divorced. In 1985, while flying from the NWA Seattle base, Dick met Susan Mayer and the couple married at Buckley, Washington. He completed his NWA career with distinction, retiring on 09/22/1991.
Dick was widely known as a gentleman and a gentle man. His colleagues knew that a month flying with Dick was a month working in a pleasant and respectful cockpit. Those who knew him well were aware that Dick never wanted to be first, he was deeply and genuinely kind, and because of that quality he was a happy, peaceful and contented man. Susan reports that Dick was a joy to live with.
In retirement Dick put his craftsman’s hands to work. His launch into retirement project was a Vans Aircraft RV-6A kit airplane. N931RG was a fine airplane; this was in part because Dick had a secret helper. Dick was known for being a superb Elk hunting guide and the chief engineer for Vann’s Aircraft was also smitten by elk hunting, it is no coincidence that he and Dick became friends. This permitted Dick to take advantage of his friend’s engineering expertise and for the engineer to bag that elk during hunting season.
Given Dick’s background flying multi-engine airplanes, perhaps that explains why he was never totally enthralled with an airplane with only one engine. When Dick put N931RG on the market, I purchased it. A photo of Dick’s airplane was featured on the cover of the program at the EAA Oshkosh fly-in a few years ago.
Dick and Susan moved to Asotin, Washington in 1997. Their quarters and shop were right across the highway from the beautiful Snake River Canyon. Few of our colleagues lived in such harmony with nature. Retirement years for Dick and Sue included many years of “trailering” with dear friends. Dick reactivated his latent musical talents and played baritone in the Lewis-Clark Community Concert Band. He was also a member of the National Rifle Association, the Experimental Aircraft Association and the Lewiston Gun Club.
Perhaps the word ‘contented’ best describes Dick Gladish. He is survived by his wife, Susan Gladish, at their home in Asotin; daughters Karen Durgin and Nancy Schatzberg; brothers Wendell Gladish and Charles Gladish; four grandchildren and one great-grandson.