Elwood ‘Woody’ Jay Herman

1921 ~ 2021

Obit Photo Woody Herman 4  Captain Elwood ‘Woody’ Jay Herman, age 100, died August 10, 2021 at home in New Auburn, WI. Woody was born in Montrose, MN on 2/18/1921 to Alta Herman (Chafee) and Jay Herman. He was their only child.

   Woody was raised in Minneapolis, MN and attended Roosevelt High School where he played football. He worked a paper route earning funds to buy a car and pay for flying lessons during the very difficult ‘Depression’ years.  Together with his father, Woody, at only 16 years old, purchased a Piper J-3 Cub. With this airplane he frequently barnstormed at county fairs, giving rides for .05 per person to help pay for the plane. He acquired an instructor rating in his late teens to become one of the youngest instructors in the US at that time. Prior to WWII Woody instructed Army Air Corp students using the PT-19 from southern Texas airbases.


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    He married Geraldine Danielson in 1942, the same year he was hired by NWA on Dec. 24th. This began a distinguished 39-year career with NWA.

   Woody was a loving father to Robert Herman (who predeceased him), Richard Herman, Doug Herman (who also predeceased him) and Jill Ann Brodd (Herman). He taught all his children to fly as well as numerous other extended family members. He frequently chartered a DC-3 in which he flew friends from Minneapolis to Acapulco.

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During the 1952 Eisenhower – Nixon campaign he flew Nixon in the DC-3 as Nixon campaigned as VP candidate with Eisenhower.

   In the early 1960’s Woody and Geraldine did a base transfer to NWA’s pilot base at Seattle so Woody could fly trans-Pacific routes to the orient. He took delight in ‘importing’ Japanese Mirouku shotguns and became a budding entrepreneur. He furthered the entrepreneur desire by amassing Continental A65 engine parts. always selling them on approval without any money down - trusting his fellow aviators to a handshake deal. He taught hundreds of students to fly, including many pilots who went on to become ATP’s. In the 1970’s Woody operated a flight school for Japanese students on the big island of Hawaii. He was a licensed flight instructor for over 65 years. He was also an FAA flight examiner for private, commercial, instrument, seaplane, multi engine, an airline transport.

   It is little known to most of his pilot colleagues that Woody was an excellent gin player. He even once required a longtime opponent to pay off his numerous gin bets with a 6-month-old Cadillac. Woody enjoyed his retirement years at the Wisconsin Herman Lake compound he shared with his extended family, where he taught his grandkids and great grandkids to swim, shoot a 22 rifle, play cards and solo in one of his airplanes. His seaplane hangar was a fixture on the lake with a J-3 and a PA-12 on floats. Occasionally his children water skied behind a float plane.  He spent many winters in Texas, enjoying the warmer weather with friends and was always on the lookout for more A65 parts, many of which are presently for sale.

   Woody was an extremely positive person and was often heard to say “no big deal” whenever anything negative came his way. His two surviving children, six grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and seven great-great grandchildren all continue to share the Herman compound today on Lower Long Lake at New Auburn, Wisconsin. Woody boarded his last flight on August 10, 2021, and passed at the age of 100+ from natural causes.

















Piper J-3

Piper PA-12 


Aerona Champ

Taylor Craft


Cessna 172

Cessna 180

Cessna 182

Cessna 150

Cessna 170

Cessna 210

Cessna 310

Republic RC-3 Seabee

Twin Beech E-18

Twin Beech D-18

Piper Warrior

Piper Aztec

Piper Twin Commanche

Douglas DC-3, making multiple trips to Acapulco

Beechcraft Baron

Aero Commander


Douglas A-26


Fairchild PT-26 trainers in Texas

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  Woody never bent an airplane, other than once having to use a crash axe to reenter a locked DC-3 door while flying solo on a maintenance flight!

Submitted by - Joel Brodd (Son-In-Law)

NWA pilot comments: Comments regarding Woody’s passing are extensive. I glean that he may have been the most popular ever NWA pilot. Everyone sought to fly with Woody, super seniority was required to hold his monthly schedule. One NWA pilot commented, “He taught me more than flying.  He taught me how to be a human being.  How to treat my fellow pilots and cabin crew.  I miss him but expect to see him again.  So long, Woody.  I know you are probably teaching some angel how to dress and be classy.”

This is a small sample of the many comments from those who flew with Woody Herman. The following summarizes the consensus: “.....most NWA pilots are good guys, but Woody was especially so.”

(- Bill Day)