Vander Rowland |
lived a life most men only dream of. Husband, father, pilot, boat captain, adventurer, and entrepreneur - he followed his passions and lived a life of his own design.
Born in Crockett, Texas on July 31, 1927, Van spent the first part of his life's journey against the backdrop of the deep East Texas Piney Woods, and the many small towns where his parents taught school. At 17, he joined the Navy and served as a Seaman First Class in the Pacific Theater of World War II. This was the first of his world travels which would characterize his life.
After the War, he returned to Houston and began work as an airplane mechanic for Trans Texas Airways. He earned his pilot's license and began his career as a pilot with Trans Texas Airways. Through the company's evolution from TTA to Texas International and eventually Continental Airlines, Van rose to the rank of Senior Captain. Because of his long tenure, he was one of the most experienced DC3 pilots in the country. Trans Texas was also the place he met his beautiful wife, Anita Gail Williams. They were a handsome, glamorous, and committed couple whose partnership began in 1957 and lasted until his death.
An entrepreneur at heart, Van launched and invested in several businesses in addition to flying. From car sales to body shops and real estate, his keen business sense resulted in a diverse collection of interests and business associates. He could often be found tinkering in his "shop" next to the house and was especially skillful when it came to painting and refurbishing cars.
In 1984 Van joined the "Quiet Birdmen" Pilots' Association and retired to Marathon in the Florida Keys where he and Gail lived for more than 20 years. There, his adventures were carried out in small planes and big boats. While in Marathon, he served as Commodore of the Marathon Yacht Club (Member Council 13). His keen navigation and leadership were admired and trusted by his many friends in the Yacht club. Van and Gail traveled to the Caribbean, Belize, Mexico, Central America, and beyond on their yacht, The Lady Gail.
In 1999 Van and Gail returned to Texas to be near their beloved family. Van enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren and could always be counted on to create adventures and friendly competitions that engaged the young and old.
Van was a humble and kind man who quietly took care of a menagerie of family, dogs, cats, cranes, monkeys and friends along the way. All were privileged to share in his journey, which as Gail notes, was certainly never dull. He passed away peacefully surrounded by family in Dallas TX on March 6, 2013.
Van is preceded in death by his parents Vander Lige and Vera Duncan Beathard; his sister Ethelyn Hill; brother Roger Lamar Beathard; daughter Bonnie Gail Beathard, brother LaReid Duncan; and niece Deneice Yearwood. He is survived by wife Anita Gail Beathard; son Gary Beathard and his wife Beth; son Roger Beathard and his wife Michele; daughter Tammy Westfall and her husband Jake; and grandchildren Steven Beathard and his wife Blaire; Bonnie Eisenman and husband Michael; Madeleine Beathard, Andrew Beathard, Katie Green, Tyler Woods, and Cayden Hines; brothers Duncan Rowland and Bryant Rowland; sister-in-law Betty Beathard; nieces Dana Henderson and Kathleen Beathard Maurer; great niece Margeaux Maurer; and many cousins.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations to The Houston Aeronautical Heritage Society in support of the 1940 Air Terminal Museum at Houston's Hobby Airport: 8325 Travelair Street Houston, Texas 77061.
Published in Houston Chronicle on Mar. 10, 2013