Leon J. Folse Sr (1921 - 2011)

My paternal grandfather passed away late this afternoon.

Leon Joseph Folse, Sr was born in 1921. He was airplane-mad from an early age, flying model airplanes in his teens.

He got into the first flying class he could, the first aviation course taught at Lamar College in Port Arthur, TX in 1940 (sixth from the left).

We've got all his flying logs, where you record every flight, from his first ones where his instructors critiqued him to I don't know when. (I didn't finish looking through them last week when Mom and I visited him in the hospital.)

By the time WWII broke out and he was drafted, he was a qualified flight instructor, and the Army needed those more than they needed pilots, so they quickly un-drafted him and he spent the war teaching fighter pilots in College Station and San Antonio, TX.

After the war, he became a private pilot, working for the O'Connor family in South Texas. He flew all over the U.S. and into Mexico for them. I remember him telling me that the hardest part of flying out of Jackson Hole, WY is that it's in the middle of the mountains, so you have to gain as much speed as possible as fast as possible, and pull up as high as you can because there's a mountain in front of you.

My father was born in 1942, and passed away in 1992. Their relationship was rocky at times -- Dad always claimed that Leon sent him to military school for throwing spitballs, but I suspect there was probably a bit more in there. :)

Frances Folse, Leon's first wife, died around the time I was born, and a few years later he married Elizabeth Byars. My aunts, uncles, and cousins all come from my dad's stepfamily.

My dad and I my senior year of high school. Mom and I can't identify the scary wallpaper, so we're not sure where this photo was taken, but I'm wearing my class ring and my senior sweatshirt, so it was in 1987 or 1988.

My grandfather's parents were Theodore Folse and Lucille Therese Folse (neé Chauvin), and you can see how the Folse looks have passed down the years.

Oddly enough, my grandfather pronounced our name as "Foltz," while Mom and I pronounce it as "Folse" (long o, one syllable, in both cases). None of us can remember how my dad pronounced it, so we don't know when the pronunciation shifted.

My grandfather is survived on this side by his daughter-in-law (my mother) and me, and on the Byars side by his stepkids, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

He will be missed.

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