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John Eugene Combs, 95, passed away April 28, 2013 surrounded by family. Born on December 3, 1917 in Mulberry, Indiana, he grew up on the Combs family farm.
Working his way through college, he received his bachelor's degree from Indiana University and his master's from Purdue University in agronomy and geology. Pursuing his boyhood dream of flying, he joined the US Army Air Corps in 1941. Earning his flight wings as a commissioned officer, he became a flight instructor to cadets at West Point. In 1945, he became a B29 bomber captain, flying combat missions on the Pacific Front during WWII. While remaining active in the USAF Reserves, he joined Eastern Air Lines in Miami. Recalled to active duty during the Korean War, he flew combat missions in Asia. Upon Gen. Mark Clark's appointment as UN Forces Commander, Gen. Clark asked WWI "Ace" Eddie Rickenbacker, then president of Eastern Air Lines, to recommend a pilot for his command. Rickenbacker chose Major Combs, who flew Gen. Clark, Army and UN dignitaries and VIPs to and from Tokyo, Japan during most of the conflict. Upon Combs' retirement as a highly decorated Lt. Col., he continued his distinguished career at Eastern until 1977, where he served as captain, check pilot and flight instructor. During his aviation career, he flew over 38,000 hours in an array of aircraft, some featured in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
John had an insatiable thirst for knowledge and was the epitome of the self-motivated learner - a true Renaissance man. He built a 3-bedroom concrete block house himself in 6 months, studying construction techniques while working full-time as a pilot. He studied the stock market for over 50 years and could recite and write over 100 NYSE stock symbols up until his death. He was a master gemologist, silversmith and lapidarist. Despite traveling around the world with his career, he still loved to travel in his spare time. An inveterate RVer, he and his wife traveled extensively in the U.S., North, Central and South America. They visited over 100 U.S. National Parks. He drove from Florida to his beloved Alaska 3 times. His brilliance was exceeded only by his devotion to his family.
He was predeceased by his wife of 64 years, Harriet Elizabeth, and sister Frances McLaughlin.
He is survived by his 3 children, Ginny Aday (Michael), Doug Combs (Louisa) and Lou Ellen Combs (Joe Holt); 3 grandchildren, Ryan Aday (Jennifer), Brian Combs and Diana Roberson (Matthew); 2 great grandchildren, Lauren Aday and Elia Roberson; and 2 sisters, Phyllis Huffer and Marian Miller.
A memorial service, celebrating John's remarkable life, will be held at First Presbyterian Church of DeLand on June 1, 2013 at 2:00 pm, followed by a reception in the church's fellowship hall. Interment will be June 2nd at Eastminster Presbyterian Church, Indialantic, FL at 11:30 am.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Eastminster Presbyterian Church or the
Arrangements by Baldwin-Fairchild Funeral Home, 407-656-2233.
Published in FLORIDA TODAY on May 5, 2013