Roger Sherron passed away in Sebastopol, CA at the age of 95 on August 9, 2012.
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He was born in Durham, NC on September 27, 1916. His parents, Roger J. Sherron, Sr. (Buddyrow) and Bell Markham Sherron were hard-working people, providing for their family through the Depression. He had one elder sister Elizabeth Harmon, who is deceased.
Roger knew he wanted to fly when he was a boy of only eleven during the early years of aviation. He was inspired by Charles Lindbergh's 1927 transatlantic flight. At the local airport outside Chapel Hill, he pestered the owner of the flying school, Clarence Pickell, who gave him menial jobs like sweeping out the hangar, washing bird poop off airplane wings, or changing oil in exchange for flying lessons. "Pick" gave Roger a chance and his aviation career began. Roger remained close to Pick for the rest of his life.
In those barn-storming days, he sold rides on the plane Pick flew around the Chapel Hill area. They would land on a farmer's dirt ru
nway and offer 10-minute rides for $1.00 per person, two at a time in a 90-horsepower biplane with a water cooled engine.
After high school, Roger worked to save money to go to Duke University, where he earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering.
An experienced ham-radio operator, he was hired to work in the communications department of Pan American Airlines. He was an expert at Morse code and could recognize a good "hand". He worked on the Boeing 314 flying boats as a radio operator on flights from New York to Bermuda. Pan American pioneered the trans Atlantic routes. He flew across the Atlantic by way of Central and South America to Africa then Europe. In 1940 he was on the Pan Am crew that evacuated Queen Wilhelmina from Holland during the Nazi invasion.
The radio operator on the flying boats also served as navigator, taking readings from the stars with a sextant. Roger sometimes spoke about flying across the Atlantic and the awe-inspiring feeling of being the only aircraft over the huge dark ocean at night.
After receiving his commercial license, Pan Am hired him as a pilot, where he flew a four-continent route from Lisbon, Portugal, to the US. Roger flew DC-3's from Miami to Buenos Aires hopping from country to country.
His pilot license lists nearly every type of aircraft that Pan Am operated: DC-3, Stratocruiser, DC-7, Convair, Constellation, Boeing 707 and 747. In 1953 he was captain of a flight with Lindbergh on board; he finally got to meet the man. He owned and flew many types of private aircraft, including an SNJ, seaplanes, and sailplanes. He particularly loved his Cessna 170 and tail-draggers in general.
Roger was based in many places, Baltimore, New York, Miami, Brownsville (Texas), Houston, and finally SFO. In 1944 he met and married his future wife, Mary Mathews, who was working in the Pan Am office in Miami.
He and his family moved to Sebastopol in 1959. In 1962 Roger was present for the inauguration of the control tower at the Sonoma County Airport. In 1967 Roger bought a 1942 Tiger Moth biplane in England and had the parts shipped to Sonoma County Airport where he assembled the plane exactly as the original. The Tiger Moth, based at the Healdsburg airport, was well-known around Sonoma County and at northern California fly ins. In 1987 he flew it between the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge during the 50th anniversary celebration of the Golden Gate Bridge and landed at Crissey Field.
FAA rules required Roger to retire at age 60 in 1976. Roger was one of the most senior pilots at Pan Am at that time. His wife Mary accompanied him on his last flight, a round-the-world trip ending with his last landing at SFO. A great career of thirty-seven years with Pan American! Being captain of a 747 can be a stressful job, but he enjoyed flying and often said that he "would have done it all for free."
After retirement, he and his wife Mary lived in Santa Rosa and also part-time in Surrey, England. Mary Sherron died in 1982.
Roger remarried in 1984 to Catharine Skiles of Friendswood, Texas. They had a happy marriage and enjoyed travelling together throughout Europe and Great Britain as well as the United States. Catharine died in 2011.
Throughout his life, Roger had a wide range of interests: photography, hunting, shooting, water skiing, aviation, aircraft maintenance, flying, ham radio, electronics, computers, tools, boating. His mind was sharp to the end; he had recently purchased an iPad, just to see how it worked and to read ebooks.
He remembered many things about the early flying days and enjoyed talking about them. For all his accomplishments, Roger was a modest man. Many times he said how grateful he was to have had such a long, wonderful life. We will miss him very much.
He is survived by his four children: Roger Sherron III (Ellen) and Suzanne Wehausen (Peter) of Sebastopol, Mike Sherron (Devra) of Occidental, and Patrick Sherron (Wilma) of Santa Rosa; grandchildren Alan, Jenna, Will, Ryan, Rachael, Nicole, Devin, Brandon; great-granddaughter Bailey. Stepfather and friend to Carl Skiles (Susan), David Skiles (Susan), and Jean Stafford (Patrick).
Memorial donations may be made to Palm Drive Hospital, Sebastopol.
Published in the Press Democrat from August 19 to August 20, 2012
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