I am personally typing this after reading (Times, May 24) of Wolfgang Reitherman’s untimely death. If my execution is sloppy it is because my eyes are misting.
I and many of my confreres in the aviation industry have lost a wonderful friend. The entertainment industry, therefore the public in general have also lost.
Woolie (which is what we always called him) was a tall, good-hearted person who liked virtually everyone he met; therefore everyone liked him.
It was my privilege to have known him, and served with him in the China-Burma-India Theater during World War II. I had casually known him prior to renewing my acquaintanceship in a more intimate manner when we both shared a foxhole at the Kunming Air Base during a Japanese air raid.
His military career was exemplary. He was an excellent pilot, flying all over China and, after V-J Day, flying a C-47B into Shanghai, one of our first “birds” to land there while Japanese troops still were in charge.
Woolie’s love of flying was as great as his love of art. After the war he delayed rejoining Disney for quite awhile--by becoming a Philippine Air Lines captain. During this period he met his wife, Janie, a lovely person who was a stewardess on his flights. They subsequently raised a wonderful family.
He finally forsook the “big birds” and returned to Disney where he helped create entertainment history. However, half of his warm heart always belonged to aviation. When he flew the skies always seemed friendly despite occasional encounters with flak and turbulent weather. Now he is gone, proving that frequently the Lord is a bum picker.