1942 ~ 2023
Captain Theodore Cline Preble, age 81. On Wednesday night, November 23rd, 2023, Cline Preble, dearly beloved husband, father, grandfather and friend flew on angels wings to wait for us in one of the Lord’s “many mansions.” He is, no doubt, up there fixing something, taking care of someone and telling one of his many flying stories. To put into language the degree he will be missed in our world is not possible. He was everything to each of us.…suffice it to say he was the ultimate protector, leader, mentor, pilot, instructor, and always there for those who needed him. He leaves an enormous hole.
Cline began his life in Oklahoma in 1942, just missing being a New Year’s gift to parents Ted, an attorney for the Federal Reserve Bank, and Ethel, a high school teacher, on December 30. He had a happy, busy life in Oklahoma City, where he experienced his first flight lessons at Northwest Classen high school with his physics instructor…can you believe a high school with its own airplane? He spent his college years at Oklahoma State University, where he was the captain of the rifle team and took the group to many competitions all over the US, including the National Championships. While at OSU he met and married the love of his life, his wife, Judy. After graduation he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the US Army and they moved to Columbus, Georgia, where he became the youngest instructor on the Small Arms Committee in the US Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia. While there he and Judy welcomed their baby son, Kevin, into their lives.
A move to Ft. Rucker, Alabama, followed where Cline attended flight school in preparation for what became his lifetime career. He spent a year in Viet Nam flying the 01-Bird Dog in the Mekong Delta, gaining a reputation for bravery and creativity by reconfiguring his small aircraft into a “fighter craft” by loading it with (unauthorized) armament, thereby having the military designate it an experimental aircraft after he left. After a year’s return to Ft. Rucker to instruct, he left the military for a position as a second officer for Northwest Airlines in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where a year later the family was blessed by the birth of daughter, Cori.
For over 30 years Cline wore too many hats to list for Northwest Airlines, including instructor, APD, check airman, and one of the initial cadre introducing the first planes manufactured by Airbus to be flown in the United States. Among the many responsibilities involved in the introduction of the A-320’s to Northwest, he handled the deliveries of the new aircraft from Toulouse, France, to Minneapolis. He trained the new captains, checked them out in this new fly-by-wire technology and after being asked to continue as a part of the initial cadre on the A-340 (which never came to fruition for Northwest) went back to the line, flying the 757, the DC10 and the various manifestations of the 747. He flew Northwest’s inaugural flight to Mumbai, India, and retired as Captain on the 747-400 in 2002.
During his career years he served in many capacities outside of his vocation for his community, church, the Minnesota National Guard and his family. The family moved from Edina, MN to a home outside of Brainerd on Gull Lake where they enjoyed years of lake living in the North Woods. This was followed by a move to Rochester for most of their Minnesota life. He was an avid long distance bicyclist, training for two years to qualify for the 100th anniversary of the 750 mile, 90 hour Paris-Brest-Paris ride including completing the Boston-Montreal-Boston ride. He continued to serve in the Minnesota National Guard’s aviation division and completed over 20 years as an Army officer. He ran the airfield at Camp Ripley, MN, and served in a number of capacities, including coaching the Army’s Biathlon team when they competed nationally. A high point of that venture was meeting Maria Von Trapp, the heroine of “The Sound of Music,” while training the team in Stowe, Vermont.
The Minnesota years were followed by a move to Litchfield Park, Arizona, in 1995 where he enjoyed bicycling, hiking and the many pleasures of Arizona sunshine. He and Judy spent half of each year at their cabin in the mountains near Payson, Arizona, where they had horses, dogs, gardens and grandchildren to play with. Cline became very active in Field Trials with his Tennessee Walker horse, Diesel, his German Shorthaired Pointer, Takodah, and his English Pointer, Kandi. One of the favorite stories of the cabin crowd was seeing Cline and Diesel running at full tilt, chasing the errant free range cattle out of the housing area!
Cline is survived by his wife of 60 years, Judy, of Litchfield Park, Arizona and their summer cabin east of Payson, Arizona; his son, Kevin and daughter-in-law, Yuliya, of Telluride, Colorado and Maui, Hawaii; his daughter, Cori, of Litchfield Park, Arizona and his four grandchildren, Luke, Ryland, Izzy and Rhett, of whom he was so proud and loved so deeply.
(- Judy Cline)