David E. McKenzie
Howell - David McKenzie of Howell, Michigan passed away April 18, 2021 at age 84 in his assisted living home at Vista Springs of Howell.
David was born on March 24, 1937 in Linden, Alabama. His father, the late George Dewey (Mac) McKenzie was a pilot, flight instructor, air show performer, welder and patented inventor. His mother, Jewel Currence McKenzie was an \elementary school teacher. As a boy, he grew up working with his father in the family's welding and auto repair business in Evergreen, Alabama.
After graduation from high school in 1955, he attended Auburn University and majored in Mechanical Engineering. He was also a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He worked his way through college as a machinist and service technician in several paper mills operated by the Kimberly Clark Company.
After college in 1959, David began his career as an engineer with Southern Coach and Body of Evergreen, Alabama. He also served his country through the Army National Guard as a Jeep mechanic. In 1964, he moved to Michigan and began his tenure with Ford Motor Company's Advanced Vehicle Design division. He retired in 2005.
By trade, he was an engineer. But by passion, he was always an aviator.
Like his father, David was a pilot, flight instructor, air show performer, and avid aerobatic competitor. He also designed and built airplanes in his family home; including a replica Great Lakes 2T1A biplane powered by a tank engine and a highly modified Taylorcraft monoplane.
This passion for flying was much needed fuel to overcome several challenges in his life. In July of 1980, he crashed while performing in an air show in Mason, Michigan. David sustained several life threatening injuries that included two broken legs, a broken left arm, compressed vertebrae, and six broken ribs - two of which punctured the left lung. When he awakened from his coma four weeks later, he found he was paralyzed from the neck down. Over the next several months, he began regaining his dexterities and learned to walk again. The following year, he was enroute to outpatient therapy when he was struck by a train and sustained several injuries to his already weak legs. There were other incidents that followed in 1983 and 1984. Those led to a broken right foot, breaking again the right leg and a left arm.
Finally in 1986, David resumed flying, performing in air shows, and aerobatic competition. Between 1986 and 1991, he attained several aerobatic titles in the U.S. and Canada. In 2009, he was the recipient of the Federal Aircraft Administration's Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award for 50 years of aviation excellence. In 2011, David became a published author with his autobiography "The Spirit's Journey".
David McKenzie is survived by his wife Nancy and stepson Lowell Scott (Micki) Thomas of Howell, Michigan, brother Jimmy of Evergreen, Alabama, son Michael (Rachel) of Birmingham, Alabama, daughter Terri Mason of Montgomery, Alabama, and four grandchildren, James Mason, Katarina Mason, Barret Travis Mason, and Kiele Jackson. A memorial and life celebration will be announced at a later date.