Jacob J. Braig

1937 ~ 2023


     Captain Jacob J Braig, age 85, passed away in his hometown hospital at Whitefish, MT of natural causes and at peace. Jake, the son of Mary and Tony Braig, grew up on a 155-acre farm where he lived the good life in the 50’s with younger brother Robert, his Voermans relatives, and lots of friends.

   Jake was a good high school student; he was neat to the point of being meticulous and accurate in details. He was also a high school track star who worked seasonally as a fireman for Great Northern Railroad and as a clerk at Van Aken’s clothing store.  After high school Jake spent one year at Bozeman before transferring to the University of Montana where he excelled. While at the University of Montana Jake was a member of Sigma Nu fraternity.  A history and political science major he sharpened his vast intellect and honed his skill set to later become a 747 captain and two-star General.

   After college graduation Jake was called to Air Force active duty and reported to Harlingen AFB, TX, deep in the Rio Grande Valley, for Undergraduate Navigator Training. Navigator training consisted of many training flights crisscrossing Texas, Louisiana, and the Gulf of Mexico. After graduation Jake was assigned to Radar Observer training at James Connally AFB, Waco, TX. This training was a precursor to returning to the Montana Air Guard fighter interceptor unit at Great Falls, MT serving in the backseat of a F-89.

   Jake was to become a rare anomaly in the Air Force and major airlines. He launched his extensive military and civil aviation career as a navigator and not as a pilot. In his era, being a navigator suggested possible barriers to promotion.  This did not divert or discourage Jake. In additional to his military professional education, Jake started acquiring FAA pilot ratings. More than likely his pilot partners allowed him a ‘little stick time’ now and then.

   Due to equipment changes, Jake transferred from Great Falls to the Air Guard unit at Spokane (Geiger Airport) in order to fly the F-101B. The WA ANG Fighter Wing later converted to a aerial tanker refueling mission. Again, his background as a navigator proved valuable in planning tanker missions all over the world.

   Jake opted for civilian airline employment and was hired by Northwest Airlines on March 20. 1967. Thereafter Jake’s career progression with NWA became determined by seniority and base assignment. Jake was a delight to work in whatever capacity he served, whether Second Officer or Captain. He climbed the ladder and ended his Northwest Airline career as a 747 Classic Captain.

   Meanwhile, Jake completed the extensive requirements of professional military education and experience required to Command the Washington Air Guard. He served during several periods when ANG reservists were recalled to active duty. Let there be no doubt, Jake Braig’s personal calendar was mighty full.


   The pressures of two careers no doubt interfered with more traditional marriage and family lifestyles. His extraordinary military service came accompanied with a heavy price tag. Jake never married and had no children of his own.

   A year prior to Jake’s mandatory age 60 retirement at Northwest Airlines, he suffered a stroke. Jake had a backlog of vacation time and sick leave accumulated that covered him until his full retirement in June 1997.

   In the 28 years after his stroke Jake had many caregivers and attentive good friends and cousins.  After resettling at Kalispell, his old high school girlfriends and buddies made regular outings to be with Jake. His extended family maintained a full-time staff at Jake's home.  As his brother Bob reports,  Jake "was unable to plan events, nor always savor an event, but in the present was himself, commander to the end."

   Jake’s pal Larry Sanders took him to lunch every Wednesday and filled the “guy stuff” gap because he had mostly female caregivers.  The Sigma Nu brothers took him to their lunches; he read to first graders at St Matthews school, exercised with trainers at the Summit and attended family gatherings.  The stroke left him with limited eyesight and no short-term memory, his daily life was full until he closed out his final flight plan.

   Jake’s survivors include younger brother Bob and wife Beverly and their four children and grandchildren: Rob Toni, Amy, Erica; Mary Courtenay; Kiersten, JJ, Emalee and Austin; Brandee, Zack and Addison.

   It was an honor to know you, Jacob Braig. You were one of the best.

(-Braig Family & Bill Day)