Wilbert L."Will" Sullens

Wilbert L."Will" Sullens

Nov. 3, 1925 - April 4, 2005Wilbert "Will" Sullens, 79, a resident of Medical Springs, and former Prairie City resident, died Monday, April 4, 2005 at his home. A memorial service was held, April 9, at Coles Funeral Home in Baker City. Mr. Dale Bingham conducted the services.

Mr. Sullens was born November 3, 1925 in Prairie City, to Russell and Madeleine (Barlow) Sullens. He was raised and received his education in Prairie City. In 1943, he entered the U.S. Army Air Corps, attending flight school in Santa Ana, Calif. He was honorably discharged in 1945 and returned to Prairie City, where he became a flight instructor and ran the John Day Airport, which allowed him to accrue the hours necessary to work for an airline. During this time, he also worked as a mill wright in the local mill to make ends meet.

He married Margaret Howell of Prairie City and they had two children, Jim and Gloria. They later divorced.

He went to work for United Airlines in Los Angeles and due to scheduling was furloughed. He went to work as private pilot for Cotting Enterprises, a builder in San Francisco, Calif. While working for Cotting, he also helped in the planning and designing of shopping centers.

In 1955, he went to work for PanAm World Airways as a navigator. On one of his trips home, he met Janice Wirth, who was singing at a club in John Day. They were married and later adopted a daughter, Karla in 1967.

In 1960, he was stationed in Huntington, Long Island, N.Y., flying to Germany and Africa as copilot. He was one of the first charter pilots to fly into Moscow, Russia. He also flew many times into Vietnam during the war. He was stationed in many places, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Seattle and Frankfurt, Germany, where he flew the Berlin corridor.

In 1971, the Sullens bought a ranch near Janice's family in Medical Springs. She died in 1980. Mr. Sullens continued to call Medical Springs home and enjoyed his breaks from flying by working on his ranch.

In 1984, he became reacquainted with Holly Wright Menard, a flight attendant that he met in 1968. He and Holly were married March 16, 1986 in Irvine, Calif. They moved permanently to their ranch in 1985 after Mr. Sullens retirement from PanAm, where he worked for 29 years, the last nine as captain, flying 747s.

Mr. Sullens was talented at welding, architectual design, building, and political activism. Mr. Sullens and his brother, Elwin, designed, built and flew the first four-engine B-17 aerial retardant fire fighter flying aircraft in Chino, Calif. This plane was adopted for use by the U.S. Forest Service.

Mr. Sullens designed and helped rebuild the flume for the Big Creek Ditch Co. He was also a carpenter and enjoyed working with wood, metal and cars. As John Wirth said, "Will was the best welder he ever witnessed with acetylene." He could fix anything, building the parts needed if necessary. He enjoyed hunting, shooting guns, reading history, listening to music, and flying. However, barbecue wasn't his forte. He enjoyed politics and was well- known for his political letters to the editor.

Mr. Sullens is survived by his wife, Holly, Medical Springs; his children; Jim Sullens and his wife Lynette of Prairie City; Karla Sullens, Pendleton; and Eric Menard of Pacific Grove, Calif.; three grandchildren; and one brother, Elwin Sullens and his wife Dorothy of Los Alamitos, Calif.

He was preceded in death by his parents, one brother, one sister and one daughter, Gloria.

Memorial contributions in Mr. Sullens memory may be directed to Powder River Sportsman's Club, Oregonians in Action or Soroptimist of Baker County Gift Memorial Fund. This may be done through Coles Funeral Home, 1950 Place Street, Baker City, OR 97814.

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