Wilbert “Will” L. Sullens, 79, of Medical Springs, died April 4, 2005, at his home.
His memorial service will be Saturday at 2 p.m. at Coles Funeral Home, 1950 Place St. Dale Bingham will conduct the services. Everyone is invited to a finger-food potluck reception at the VFW Hall, 2005 Valley Ave., immediately following the service.
Will was born Nov. 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 millwright in the local mill to make ends meet. He married Margaret Howell of Prairie City and to this union, two children were born, Jim and Gloria. They later divorced. Will went to work for United Airlines in Los Angeles and due to scheduling was furloughed. He then went to work as private pilot for Hugh Cotting, Cotting Enterprises, a development builder in San Francisco. While working for Cotting, he also helped in the planning and designing of shopping centers.
In 1955 Will went to work for Pan Am 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 co-pilot. 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, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Seattle and Frankfurt, Germany, where he flew the Berlin corridor.
In 1971, due to Janice’s ill health, the Sullens bought a ranch near Janice’s family in Medical Springs so that she would be near her family. Janice passed away in 1980. Will 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 he met in 1968. He and Holly were married March 16, 1986, in Irvine, Calif. They moved permanently to their ranch in 1985 after Will’s retirement from Pan Am. He worked for the company for 29 years, the last 9 as captain flying 747s.
Will was a very talented man who could do anything, be it welding, designer of architect, builder, or political activist. There are so many things that Will did it is hard to acknowledge all of them, but several are worth noting. Will 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 and its design was adopted for use by the U.S. Forest Service. Will designed and helped rebuild the flume for the Big Creek Ditch Co. Will was an excellent carpenter and enjoyed working with wood, metal and cars. As John Wirth, one of his Medical Springs neighbors, said: “Will was the best welder I ever witnessed with acetylene.”
Will could fix anything, building the parts needed if necessary. He enjoyed hunting, shooting guns, reading history, listening to music, and flying. However, barbecuing wasn’t his forte. He enjoyed politics and was well known for his political letters to the editor. He enjoyed poking fun at candidates and issues but never meanly. He was proud of his heritage and the fact that his grandfather Isaac came over the Oregon Trail in 1854 and his first wife’s family blazed the Barlow Trail. He loved life, family and friends and enjoyed each and every day. He was extremely proud of his country and loved being an American.
Will is survived by his wife, Holly, of Medical Springs; his children, Jim Sullens and his wife, Lynette, of Prairie City, Karla Sullens of Pendleton, and Eric Menard of Pacific Grove, Calif.; grandchildren, Jeremy Sullens of Pendleton, and Tiffany Sullens and Brady Sullens, both of Prairie City; a brother, Elwin Sullens and his wife, Dorothy, of Los Alamitos, Calif.; and numerous nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents, a brother and sister, and a daughter, Gloria.
Contributions in Mr. Sullens’ memory may be made to the 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 St., Baker City, OR 97814.
Used with permission from: Baker City Herald, Baker City, Oregon, April 8, 2005
Transcribed by: Belva Ticknor