Donald William Nyrop
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Nyrop, Donald William Age 98, of Edina, died Tuesday, Nov- ember 16, 2010, at his home. His lifelong career in the airline industry, beginning in Washington D.C. as a federal regulator of the nascent commercial airline industry and concluding with a quarter-century at the helm of Northwest Airlines, define his legacy. Born in Elgin, Nebraska, on April 1, 1912, he graduated from Doane College in Crete, Nebraska in 1934 and subsequently graduated from George Washington University Law School in Washington D.C. while working as an auditor for the U.S. General Accounting Office. Admitted to the bar in 1938, he joined the newly formed Civil Aeronautics Authority (the precursor to the Federal Aviation Authority), where he honed his focus on route proceedings and airline safety. During World War II, he served as executive operations officer in the U.S. Army's Air Transport Command, returning to civilian life in 1946 as a Lieutenant Colonel. Prior to joining Northwest Airlines in 1954, he held the highest civilian aviation posts in the U.S. government, as Civil Aeronautics administrator and Civil Aeronautics Board chairman. Under his leadership, Northwest Airlines transformed from a failing mail carrier to a financially successful international airline, profitable in every year of his tenure. Safety considerations drove decision making and programs at Northwest, including advanced piloting techniques and training, state-of-the-art meteorological research, and equipment standardization. Northwest had one of the best safety records in the industry. In the late 1960's and the 1970's, Northwest bought or sold an airplane , on average, every 26 days, maintaining a modern fleet, while enhancing profits for the company and its shareholders. When he retired in 1978, Northwest Airlines was debt free. He served on many Boards of Directors, including First Bank System, Inc.; Northwestern Bell Telephone Company; Gould, Inc.; The Minnesota Mutual Life Insurance Co.; Honeywell, Inc.; Stetson Hat Company; and as a Trustee of Doane College, Crete, NE. In his lifetime, he was inducted into the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame, and received the Tony Jannus Award for Outstanding Achievement in Commercial Aviation. He was a long time member of the Minikahda Club, the Minneapolis Club and the former Minnesota Club. Noted for his rich story-telling, he was fortunate to share his retirement with many friends, neighbors and Northwest employees, attending regular reunions, dinners and events. He had an avid interest in history and politics, traveled throughout the western US, and enjoyed fishing in Alaska. Married to Grace Cary Nyrop for over 50 years, together they were dedicated to their family and unfailingly supportive of all their children and grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife, Grace Cary Nyrop, and his son, William Donald Nyrop. He is survived by his daughter, Nancy Nyrop Scherer, her husband, Richard Scherer and their children, Matthew and Cary; daughters of William Nyrop and daughter-in-law, Mandy Love, Jessica Nyrop Rolin and Hannah Nyrop; daughter, Kathryn Nyrop and her husband, Stephen Koch and their children Nicholas and Charles; daughter, Karen Nyrop, her husband, Larry Israelson and their children, Paige and Clay; and several nieces and nephews. A memorial service will be held on January 8, 2011 at 2pm at Colonial Church of Edina, 6200 Colonial Way, Edina, MN. Memorials preferred to Allina Hospice, 1055 Westgate Drive, Suite 100, St. Paul, MN 55114 or the Edina Foundation - Bill Nyrop Scholarship Fund, 5280 Grandview Square, Edina, MN 55436.

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Published in Star Tribune from Nov. 19 to Nov. 21, 2010.
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29 entries
November 13, 2020
Mr. Nyrop was always conscious of the bottom line on one occasion of a full flight from JFK he was ask and courteously gave up his seat to a paying passenger.
Tom Corlett
November 30, 2010
I feel that I had the best years of the airline industry when I worked there and My Nyrop's NWA was the best of the best.
wayne snyder
November 27, 2010
My employment with NWA started in Dec 1965. I remember seeing Mr. Nyrop in one of his fly thrus in PIT when he greeted and slapped a co-worker on the back as he deplaned. When I asked my co-worker who was the guy slapping you on the back and the reply was Donald Nyrop. He then took me outside to meet him. Needless to say I was impressed and made to feel relaxed. Yes, he never forgot a name as I met him again later in CLE. Even though we didn't make a lot of money in our paychecks, we always had a paycheck. Thank you for your foresight to make NWA a really GREAT AIRLINE. Enjoy that flight in the heavens. We'll miss you! To your family know that I am so sorry for your father's and grandpa's loss. You are in my prayers in your grief. We shared the same birthdate only mine was years later.
Harriet Franko
November 23, 2010
Thank you for being one CEO that knew how to run an airline. My husband and I had the opportunity to work for NWA during that era. Our country needs men like D.W.Nyrop to keep it running in the black. Bless his family. The Clarks
November 23, 2010
After reading the article last week about Don's life & work at Northwest, it helped me to understand what an impact he had on my father, Jim Abbott. Don hired my father back in the late 1950s and together they worked shoulder to shoulder into the 1980s. The article described Don's style and manner but it might as well have been my dad. Dad often talked about the things he learned and worked on with Don.

I still look at the spot where the blue/green head quarters building was as I enter the Minneapolis airport. It was a windowless non flashy place but it personified them both. So sorry to hear of Don's passing. I'm sure my father as well as all the other NWA employees are welcoming on his his next journey. The cabin door has been closed but I am sure his flight will be wonderful one. Thank you Don for teaching my father and so he taught me so many things.

Willi Abbott
Son of James A Abbott
Willi Abbott
November 23, 2010
Nyrop and Aircraft Safety
I was the aircraft structures engineering manager at Northwest Airlines long before Mr. Nyrop came and long after he left. In one-on-one interfaces he sought and accepted advice from all levels of employees, even hangar and line mechanics and many times with me. He was more knowledgeable and committed to aircraft safety than any other executive that I ever worked for in my 48 years at NWA. The photo of him with me was taken at a year 2004 “open house” at the Northwest Airlines History Centre, which he supported and where he has a section in his honor. The Centre is located at 8101 34th Avenue South in Bloomington.
November 22, 2010
He Was Genuine
At his 95th birthday party, a huge, elegant event hosted every 5 years by retired pilots, Mr. Nyrop greeted everyone at the entry. The attached photo of me and my husband, Felix, who was an NWA aircraft engineering maintenance manager, shows the genuine warmth of his greetings.
Barbara Perry, Mpls. MN
Barbara PERRY
November 22, 2010
I had the distinct pleasure of serving with Don on the Doane College Board of Trustees for several years. He freely contributed his wit, charm and vision to each topic. His attention was particularly aroused when he suspected projects of being wasteful or short-sighted. Don’s unique passion for excellence influenced everything he did and everyone around him. I feel honored to have been his friend. I will miss him.
Dennis Nelson
November 22, 2010
To all those feeling the burden of Mr. Nyrop's passing, especially family, I just wanted to offer my respects even though I never met the man or his family.

My exposure to Mr. Nyrop came from my father, who had the privilege to work for NWA under Mr. Nyrop's leadership. Throughout the years and the recollections my father would tell me, all I ever heard was what a tremendous individual he was. I think what displayed my father's respect and Mr.Nyrop's quality character the most to me, were the breakfast get-togethers after their careers with
NWA were completed. A gesture which speaks volumes.

With respect,

Dan Smith
Dan Smith
November 22, 2010
Don and Grace were two of the most impressive people I have ever come in contact with in my 80 years of life. Will be long remembered by members of the Notre Dame hockey family for his friendship and generosity. One of the most impressive businessmen in the USA. Great family and had to endure so many most difficult times due to his position and great love of NWA. Will always be remembered as a great Husband, Father and Businessman. The world will miss him. Lefty Smith
Charles Smith
November 21, 2010
Thank you Don for being my friend, not just my father-in-law. You made my life special the last 32 years. You not only shared your amazing daughter with me, but also the many stories you had about your life. You were an inspiration to me and my children. Nancy, Matt, Cary and I miss you every day!!

Dick Scherer
November 21, 2010
Thank you Mr. Nyrop - you made our flying world a much safer place to enjoy the dreams of travel. You were a VERY GOOD passenger !
Mary BenderGolenFlynn
November 21, 2010
What a wonderful man!! I was so fortunate, at age 27, to have him as my first mentor. He was the personification of wisdom and integrity.
Ed Upton
November 21, 2010
Thanks Don, You were a great help to the Edina Hockey program for Pee Wees and Bantams. You never forgot what the EHA did for your son Bill and his 3 Stanley Cup rings. Coach Bill Ryerse
November 20, 2010
My dear Nancy, Karen and Kathy, our most sincere condolences on the passing of your father. I know how keenly you will feel his loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Love, Eileen and Larry Trost.
November 20, 2010
It is an honor to say I had the privilege of working under Mr. Nyrop watch. He was an incredibly strong leader and gave many in the Northwest Airlines organization the opportunity to advance and grow. Mr. Nyrop had a strong following of loyality and respect from his people.
Curt Jensen
November 20, 2010
Mr. Nyrop was a great man. He was the President of Northwest Airlines when I became a "Stewardess" in 1966. In my 35 year career with NWA we never had a better leader. He cared about employees and never forgot your name. I have often thought of him fondly over the years and truely wish there were more leaders like him today. Good bye Mr. Nyrop we will miss you!
Claudia Matzke
November 20, 2010
Mr. Nyrop was a leader. He led NWA in a most professional and successful manner.
As a "stewardess" in the mid sixties I had the pleasure of having him onboard a flight from Minneapolis to Winnepeg on an Electra. He was a delightful passenger and wanted no special treatment sitting in the back of the plane. He was a real gentleman.
Kathleen Edelmuth
November 19, 2010
Don Nyrop had a profound impact on my family. He is one of my heroes! God bless Donald Nyrop.
Brian Wright
November 19, 2010
Mr. Nyrop, you sincerely cared about us as employees and the wonderful giving state of Minnesota. I never worked under you but my daddy did and his legacy passed in 2009 with memories of you and your integrity, love for the people, love of family and the safety of Northwest Orient (Airlines) The leadership of you and who you chose to work with you is a testament to the company that prevailed and weathered many hiccups in this airline industry. You made us proud and gave us hope. I came on board in 1987 and my whole career believe it or not you made an honest impact on me as a valued employee of NWA/Delta.....Spoke the truth and what the consequences might be if things didn't go right. Minnesota, Northwest Orient (Airlines), friends and family will always have you in our thoughts. God Bless you and your family! Karen L. (FL,MN)
Karen Lee Garlington
November 19, 2010
My memories of Mr. Nyrop were mostly of football games at Edina High where his son Bill and my son Jim played on the team. He had an incredible memory , he never seemed to forget a name. NW Airlines was fortunate to have such a man.
November 19, 2010
Donald Nyrop is one of the great Minnesota heroes. Not enough people know about him but if they did, they would be very grateful. Minneapolis would not have as many aviation jobs, be a major airline hub and have all the international direct routes without him. Don was a brilliant, forward-thinking business man and a huge proponent of safety and efficiency. Unlike most executives today, he ran a business out of integrity and not greed. He was class all the way. The Red Tails may be gone now, but our memory of Mr. Nyrop will never fade away. Thanks for everything Don, we will miss you.
Steve Harrington
November 19, 2010
What a legacy to a learned and visionary is a pity that Northwest Airlines is no more and encountered such difficulty in later years...we need more men like him, Gloria Burk, Garner, Iowa
November 19, 2010
On behalf of the staff at Courage Center, please accept our condolences on the loss of Donald. Our thoughts are with you during this difficult time.
Courage Center
November 19, 2010
My Dad and I both worked at NWA when Mr. Nyrop was in charge. My Dad was a mechanic for almost 25 years, and I worked as a mail clerk. I just want to pay my respect to him as a very kind man. He had done a very special favor for me in an emergency. God bless all of you.
Carole Arndt
November 19, 2010
Fay Kulenkamp, Donald Nyrop and Bill Marchessault, June 24, 2010
Donald Nyrop was larger than life to me, especially 50 years ago when I was a stewardess and he was the C.E.O. of Northwest Airlines. He often rode on my flights to Washington D.C. and New York. He was unfailingly cordial and kind. Mr. Nyrop often helped out if we were unexpectedly short-staffed. He could clean an airplane or tend bar with the best! In June, 2010, he was an honored guest at a celebration of the life of former NWA pilot, Mal Freeburg, in Richfield, MN. This may have been his last public appearance. He is pictured with Fay Kulenkamp, retired NWA flight attendant and Bill Marchessault, current Delta flight attendant at the event. Fay and Bill represented the NWA History Centre, Bloomington MN, where photographs and memorabilia from Mr. Nyrop's career with Northwest can be seen.
Anne Kerr
November 19, 2010
Mr Nyrop was truly a man of integrity.. I flew under his leadership from 1965 until he retired..After he retired we in the cockpit would often ask, Where is Don Nyrop when we really need him? It was a good feeling to fly for an airline that was solvent and safe.. Thank you Sir
Larry Daudt
November 19, 2010
Fond memories of a great company CEO, during my years with NWA
Arne Johnson
November 19, 2010
Don taught me how to manage without direct one-on-one input. Lookng back on my careers I realize daily the great guidance he provided.
Thomas Corlett
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