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John Nestel

1921 - 2015 Obituary Condolences
John Nestel Obituary
John Ira Nestel

WWII pilot and pioneer in aviation, dies at 941921 - 2015 Mr. John Ira Nestel was born in 1921, the oldest of three children born to Paul and Adele Nestel in Hunts Point, Bronx, NY, an immigrant neighborhood full of Jewish families of all levels of income. Mr. Nestel played stickball in the neighborhood and attended the NYC public schools including the prestigious Stuyvesant High School to which he commuted from the Bronx to lower Manhattan. His passion as a boy was aviation, and on weekends, he hung around his uncle's flight school where his love of flying was given room to grow and where he learned to fly. Just as the United States was becoming engaged in WWII, Mr. Nestel was accepted at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana. At Purdue, he lived in a house for Jewish students, many of whom were eager to join the war effort to fight the Germans. Mr. Nestel interrupted his studies to enlist in the Army Air Corps where he excelled in cadet and flight training at Yale, Kansas, and Texas. He was sent the Marianas to fight in the Pacific Theatre as part of the 9th Bombardment Group that flew B29s. As a young Captain, he became a critical member of the squadron, not only training new pilots and crews, but also moving to HQ as group flight engineer, planning and leading bombing missions from Tinian Island that led to eventual surrender of Japan. As a result of his service, Mr. Nestel became a decorated veteran and received many commendations and awards including the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Clusters, Meritorious Service Medal and Air Medal. After returning from the War, Mr. Nestel resumed his studies at Purdue on the GI Bill, graduating with both an AE and ME degree and as a four-year letterman as a varsity swimmer. Following graduation, Mr. Nestel responded to an ad seeking experienced pilots and became one of the members of the first flight crews that launched Israel's first airline company, El Al, in 1948. For three years, he lived in Israel and flew commercial routes from Israel to Africa and Europe - continuing to pursue his lifelong passion for aviation. Returning from Israel to NY in the early 50s, he had two children and directed his passion for aviation and leadership to engineering and flight test as co-founder/CEO of Consolidated Airborne systems, Inc., a successful aeronautical engineering company that developed, manufactured and sold avionics for private, commercial and military aircraft.Consolidated's innovative fuel gauges and engine measurement devices were quickly recognized as essential for nearly every airplane manufacturer in the world, an achievement that placed both Mr. Nestel and Consolidated at the forefront of the aviation industry boom. For his contributions, in 1974, the Purdue School of Engineering honored him with a Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award and in 1981 he was named a Purdue Old Master. Mr. Nestel's business leadership earned him an invitation to join the Young President's Organization (YPO) and, later, its 49ers group, memberships for CEOs and business leaders that he enjoyed throughout his life. One of the highlights of Mr. Nestel's life and career included the years he spent first attending (as the only civilian member of his graduating class in 1973) and then teaching at the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School in Patuxent, MD. At Pax River, he relished flying and testing fighter planes with the best pilots in the world, many of whom became friends for life. During this time he also conducted flight testing of his own company's avionics and flew the company's twin engine Aero Commander and then its twin Beechcraft Baron. In the late 60s/early70s, Mr. Nestel had three more children and when the aviation industry began to consolidate, Mr. Nestel sold Consolidated Airborne Systems (the company he led and listed on the NYSE) to Bendix/Allied Signal, companies that were eventually merged into Honeywell. In 1978, he moved his youngest children with him to Putney, VT, where he could ski, play tennis and fly his Cessna 182, commuting for work and pleasure. His children and friends have many fond memories of flying with Mr. Nestel, who was considered an extremely safe and competent pilot-amassing more than 25,000 hours as pilot in command of 30 different aircraft throughout his life. As work and family commitments began to free up more of Mr. Nestel's time, he devoted himself to tennis, playing nearly every day, well into his 90s. In recent years, he could also be found in science and math classes at the local high school, and mentoring aspiring engineers and business leaders in college. Anyone who knew Mr. Nestel was well aware of the distances he would travel to be with his five children and six grand-children. At different junctures in his life, he travelled to Massachusetts, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, California and even Kenya, Spain and Hungary to be with children or grandchildren. His last trip was to California in December 2015 to visit one of his sons, his daughter-in-law and two of his grandchildren to celebrate the holidays and his 94th birthday. Following a heart attack, he passed there, peacefully, with is son and daughter-in-law at his side. SERVICES: Mr. Nestel's favorite place in the world was atop of Dusty Ridge in his beloved home where he would sit and watch the sun rise from his picture windows. A memorial service will be held there on Sunday, May 15, 2016, time TBD. Mr. Nestel is survived by his sister, Sally (Rusty) Yesko of Coconut Creek, FL; his five children: Jane (Penny) Nestel-Patt (and husband, Jeffrey) of Lexington, MA, Peter Nestel of Armonk, NY, John Nestel Jr. of Cohassett, MA, Nicole Nestel (and her husband, Andrew Cuniberti) of Haleiwa, HI, Gad Nestel (and his wife Melissa) of San Anselmo, CA; and his six grandchildren: Alison & Zachary Nestel-Patt, Abigail Nestel, Luca Cuniberti, and Xela & Max Nestel. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in his name to The Putney Library, where he sat on the Board of Trustees.
Published in Brattleboro Reformer on Jan. 5, 2016
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