Raymond J. Cornforth
1925 ~ 2023
Captain Raymond ‘Jack’ Cornforth, age 98, took his last flight and left our world very peacefully on Sunday June 25th, surrounded with loving family and friends. Jack came from a very small town in Oklahoma and his love of flying was initially sparked by a couple of $1 airplane rides at the local fair with a kind man and his crop duster airplane. In the Spring of 1943, at the ripe old age 17, he entered basic training with the Army Air Corps. Jack was initially trained as an aircraft mechanic, but later completed pilot training as an Aviation Cadet. In April of 1945, Jack was commissioned a Second Lieutenant and awarded Air Corp Pilot’s wings. He served the rest of the war as a P-40 Warhawk Fighter Pilot
After WWII, and release from Army duty, Jack found employment packing parachutes and working as an aircraft mechanic. He and a coworker heard there were aircraft mechanics jobs in St Paul, Minnesota so off they went. Jack was hired by Northwest Orient Airlines on February 9, 1948. He worked for Northwest Airlines for 44 years serving as a Mechanic, Crew Chief, Flight Engineer, Copilot and Captain. At age 60 Jack confronted FAA mandatory retirement. However, he was eligible to continue working an additional seven years as a flight engineer (2nd officer) on the classic Boeing 747. During those seven years Jack also served Northwest Airlines and the Department of Defense through NWA’s commitment to the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) by providing contract transportation for military troops and supplies from the United States to bases in Germany, Kuwait and Iraq during Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Jack and Betty met in Washington D.C. when he had transferred there by NWA. They eloped in Maryland in 1950 and after several transfers back and forth from Washington D.C. to Holman Field in St Paul they finally settled in Minnesota for the remainder of their lives. Minneapolis – St Paul International Airport became his home base. In 1973 Dad finally found his dream home on the lake and they decided this would be their retirement home. Dad lived there enjoying the lake life for 50 years until this June taking his last ride on his beloved pontoon with family on June 11th.
Our Dad Jack was always busy with family, kids, camping, traveling, enjoying the lake with his neighbors, longtime friends, and new friends. Many of them quite often seemed to end their visit with a game of cribbage or four. Jack was always ready to help join in with work or fun and always made it more enjoyable with his gentle smile and great laugh. He was an active member with his church for 69 years, a 73-year Mason, a 65-year American Legion Member honored as a Three- time Past Commander and 30 years as the Post Chaplain for Legion #493.
Jack was loved and respected by young and old, with countless friends and everyone that met Jack just loved him from the moment they met him. He had an easy, gentle, and classy way about him. A true southern gentleman. Always had time to help someone out, take time to sit down and talk and genuinely made you feel so special when you were with him.
Preceded in death by his wife, Betty, the love of his life for 73 years; his parents Margaret and Charles Cornforth; his Brother Donald Cornforth and his 1st Favorite Son-in law, Lee Bell. Jack is survived by his two children: Ray (Linda) Cornforth and Kathy Bell (John Hepola), Grandkids: Doug (Ashley) Cornforth; Tony (Rachel) Bell; Nickie (Matt) Petite; Brett (Namrata) Cornforth; Sara (Carlos) Zumbado; RJ Cornforth; Mike (Ashley) Cornforth; 12 Great-Grandchildren and many extended family and treasured friends.
Jack Cornforth was interned in Fort Snelling National Cemetery with Full Military Honors on July 11, 2023.
Dad, you are forever free to soar in the beautiful skies. Forever free to float upon calm waters.
(Cornforth Family and Bill Day)