Eugene C. Fletcher
July 30, 1928 - January 20, 2017
Living a truly remarkable life as a highly decorated Air Force Veteran, Aerospace Engineer, Family Man, Friend, Educator and Community Servant, Lt. Col. Eugene Curtis Fletcher, 88 years, joined his maker on Friday Jan. 20, 2017.
Born July 30, 1928 in Bristow Oklahoma to Jack and Iris Fletcher, he was a highly motivated person graduating from the University of Kansas in 1951 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Having participated in Air Force ROTC while a Jayhawk, he jumped at the opportunity to attend flight school in Orlando Florida where he met the love of his life Katherine Shackelford. Similar to an “Officer and a Gentleman”, they wed after 6 weeks in 1952 and the First Lieutenant promptly departed in 1953 for the Korean War flying F-84s.
Following the Korean War, his love of family were born two daughters Jamie Fletcher Strohecker and Carla Fletcher Jochim. Gene’s post war focus was groundbreaking, entering into the arena of rocket and flight research which lasted for 10 years.
The Air Force sent Gene to Oklahoma State University where he continued his education, graduating with a Masters in Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering and headed to the Aerospace Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson AFB, in Fairborn Ohio. He worked with world research scientists/engineers, exploring the feasibility of using nuclear propulsion systems for deep space applications. In 1967, the Air Force assigned the 37 years young Lt. Colonel to Northeast Thailand flying C-123s for night missions over the Ho Chi Minh Trail. There he earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses and nine Air Medals.
After returning from overseas, Gene continued his research in rocket, jet engine and airplane component research at Arnold AFB. His curiosity to explore the PNW and interest in teaching led to the acceptance of a position as ROTC Commander at Willamette University in 1971, retiring after 23 years of exemplary military service in 1975. Expanding his education further, Gene took this extra time to complete another Masters in Industrial Engineering in 1977 at Oregon State University.
Following graduation from OSU, Gene worked for the Oregon State Parks Department, finally retiring in 1990. Really Retired? Not yet…Continuing his service, Gene became the docent at the McMinnville Air Museum and helped found, with his beloved wife Kathy, the Institute of Continued Learning at Willamette University. After 23 years, the Institute at Willamette University continues successfully. Gene’s love of adventure has included for the past 25 years worldwide travel with his children and grandchildren.
The impact he had with his love of country, family, friends and community will be hard to replace. A man of deep faith, his comments to family were “I never expected to live this long and have had such a rich life. When my time comes, I will leave without any regrets and a happy man”. We are proud to be a part of his loving and heroic legacy with Katherine Fletcher, wife of 64 years, his children Jamie Strohecker (John), Carla Jochim (Alan) and 4 grandchildren Nicholas, Alexandra, Taylor (Alex) and Matthew (Molly).
Please join us for a celebration of Gene’s life Saturday February 18th beginning at 2 pm at Capital Manor Auditorium in Salem Oregon. Contributions can be made to your favorite charity in his honor.
Please sign the online guest book at www.vtgolden.com Assisting is Virgil T. Golden Funeral Service.