Major Leonard Lee Arbon USAF (Ret.)
Leonard Lee Arbon, 89, passed away Sunday, May 1st, 2011 in Dripping Springs, Texas. He is survived by Peggy Mae, his wife of 69 years, and children Leecia Rad of Portland, Oregon, Bill Arbon of Johnson City, Marc Arbon of San Antonio, and Tara Weaver of Austin. He leaves behind six grandchildren and nine great- grandchildren. Lee will always be cherished and remembered by friends and family. He was many things and followed a wandering road: pilot, scholar, nature-lover, artist, scuba diver, craftsman, adventurer, student, husband, father, grandfather, mentor, and full time human being. One of the first pilots to be trained at the beginning of WW II, Lee completed flight training as a Sergeant Pilot at Luke Field. He counts among his peers the likes of Chuck Yeager, Bob Hoover, and Carrol Shelby. Trained as a pilot on a C-47 (Gooney Bird) Lee, was the first of five planes to land at Del Valle Airfield (Bergstrom). There he met and married Peggy Mae Hansler. They were married for only one day when Lee's fifty ship unit departed Austin in October of 1942, for North Africa were he flew combat missions in the North African and Mediterranean theater. He returned a year later, having been decorated for participating in four major battles. After WWII, Lee served at a number of bases including Japan during the Korean War. He served as squadron commander at Keesler Air Force Base, Biloxi, MS. While stationed there, Lee and Peggy discovered the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs and enrolled in a number of zoology courses. The family became friends with Dr. Gordon Gunter, director in charge of research of the Mississippi gulf coast waters. They actively participated in trips aboard the laboratory's research vessel. As cold war threats escalated, Lee was selected by the Strategic Air Command to train and pilot the B-47 Stratojet Bomber which carried nuclear weapons. He was stationed in Lake Charles, Louisiana and flew missions for three more years until his retirement from the military in 1960. The family moved back to Austin and Lee worked in banking as a Vice President and personnel director of the largest bank in Austin. After retiring from banking, Peggy and Lee built a home in Blanco County, and for several years ran a bed and breakfast complete with a bunkhouse and Native American Tipis. Throughout this time Lee worked on bringing to life the stories of the sergeant pilots and completed a book, They Also Flew
, published in 1992 by the Smithsonian Institution Press. Lee remained an adventurer well into his 80's and at the age of 82 set off on a two week flying adventure to Alaska in his friend's float plane. It became his "trip of a lifetime" and was a great experience he never forgot. Lee continued with his projects, even while dealing with debilitating illness. He died quietly in Dripping Springs under the watchful eyes of Peggy and his children. Our family is heartbroken. Memorial service will be held at 11:00 a.m., Saturday, July 2, 2011 at Henly Baptist Church, 6590 West Highway 290 in Dripping Springs, Texas. Neighbors and friends are welcome to join the family in honoring Lee's life. Condolences may be made at www.cookwaldenforestoaks.com.