University Presbyterian Church
4540 15th Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98105
Memorial service
Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020
1:00 PM
University Presbyterian Church
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Ward Taylor Gilbert

Ward Taylor Gilbert Obituary
Ward Taylor Gilbert

On December 30, 2019, Ward Taylor Gilbert, known to all as Buddy, departed SEA on his final flight plan...destination: heaven. To all who knew him, he was a gentle giant with a ready smile and great stories. Buddy loved the Lord and served wherever needed; he was an amazing husband, father, brother, grandfather, uncle, friend, and so much more.

Buddy was best described as both very interested and very interesting. He was born in Philadelphia Pennsylvania on February 21, 1947, to parents Ward Taylor Gilbert and Mary Grotz Gilbert, who later relocated their family to Huntsville, Alabama. Buddy left the University of Alabama-Huntsville in his freshman year to enlist in the Army. He was very disappointed that his height prevented him from fitting in a cockpit of a jet fighter but found his calling in the elite Special Forces (Green Berets) where he served with the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam -

Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG), a highly classified, multi-service special operations unit which conducted covert unconventional warfare operations prior to and during the Vietnam War. His decorations included the Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, and the Air Medal.

After his honorable discharge in 1973, he returned to Huntsville and began training for his pilot's license, a decision that would influence the rest of his life. Buddy loved anything and everything to do with aviation. He could fly all day and go to an airplane museum when he was done! Along with piloting aircraft, he loved teaching other pilots. When an opportunity arose to go to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, as an instructor, he jumped at the chance. At Saudi Air, he trained pilots, computerized the cockpit, and piloted their fleet all over the world. His next step put him in the left seat on commercial airlines, the place he wanted to be. He was a pilot, instructor, and/or Chief Pilot for several airlines including Alaska, National, Vanguard, and Frontier. When the FAA enforced mandatory retirement on his 60th birthday, he wasn't quite ready to give it up. He went to work for Flight Safety International to teach pilots from around the world to be like him, the very best.

A true Renaissance man, he never stopped learning. In his 60s, he went to Apple school to learn to write iPad apps for use in pilot training programs (an intimidating feat in a class of 20-somethings) and spent the last 10 years learning to play the piano. When he finally decided to truly retire, he honed his woodworking skills, even taking classes so he could build a guitar. He volunteered for military, veteran, and other charitable causes; served as a deacon at University Presbyterian Church; and volunteered as president and board member of his neighborhood homeowner's association for years. At home, he successfully refitted his beloved Porsche 944 with a Chevy LST truck engine. This was the second Porsche he had modified this way, having donated that first one to the Purple Heart Association.

While doing his initial pilot's training in Huntsville, Buddy met and married Elizabeth (Betsy) Shelton, becoming an instant dad to her two sons. After her death in 1988, he planned to remain single and devote all his time to his work. God had different plans, however, and put Sandra Gwinn on his flight path. Sandy started a contract job for Alaska Airlines and met Buddy on her first day. Buddy knew right away that "it was true love," and Sandy fell for "the most unusual and interesting man I have ever met." The two were quickly inseparable and married in 1993.

Buddy leaves behind his devoted wife Sandy Gilbert of Edmonds, Washington; sons Andrew L. (Talisa) Jones of Sneedville, Tennessee, and Mark J. (Jennifer) Jones of Pensacola, Florida; siblings Becky (Henry) Cormier of Tampa, Florida, John Gilbert of Huntsville, Alabama, and Debbie Gilbert of Huntsville, Alabama; nieces Heidi (Frank) Busot of Tampa, Florida, and Heather Johnson of New York, New York; plus four grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, two great-nephews and extended family.

A memorial service will be held

at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle on Thurs., January 30th, 2020, at 1:00 pm.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you please consider donations to Evergreen Hospice or University Presbyterian Church.
Published in The Seattle Times on Jan. 12, 2020
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