Wilson Connell "Connie" Edwards
Lifelong resident of West Texas, Wilson Connell "Connie" Edwards passed away on May 3, 2019. He was born on April 25, 1934 in Big Spring, Texas. Upon conclusion of schooling in Big Spring and San Angelo, he began military service in the Army National Guard, where he served from 1951-1960. Having earned a private pilot's license in 1951, and commercial and airline ratings soon after, he flew extensively throughout Central America, the Caribbean, and the United States during his service. Upon completion of his military flying career, he formed Edwards Petroleum Company with his late brother, W.P. "Budo" Edwards, Jr. in 1954. In 1959, Connie and his brother assumed ownership and operation of the family farming, ranching and oil and gas leasing operations on the family land located in Howard and Glasscock counties. Between 1968-69, Connie was chief stunt pilot for the "Battle of Britain" movie, during which he logged extensive flight time piloting Me109's, Spitfires, Hurricanes, Heinkel HE III's, Junkers Ju 52's and B-25 Camera planes. During production in Bedford, England, in 1968, a Spitfire piloted by Connie had to be belly landed, engulfed in flames and with total loss of power. Connie was able to accomplish this with no injuries, an act that earned him a Royal Commendation and honorary Royal Air Force wings. In addition to this on-screen appearance, Connie also flew his own TBM Avenger in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "Bermuda Triangle", among others.
As owner and Flight CMDR-Pilot of a PBY N-4-NC, he and son, "Tex", flew to Europe in May and June 1986, recreating and commemorating the very first Atlantic crossing by aircraft. During so, Connie and the flight crew participated in the fly-over of the Statue of Liberty on July 4th done in conjunction with the Navy's celebration of the 75th Anniversary of Naval Aviation, receiving numerous commendations, among them a special Commendation Medal from the Royal Navy and Lord Mayor of Plymouth, England. As owner of an HU-16 Albatross N226CG, he furnished the aircraft, crews and expenses for the celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the United States Coast Guard in 1989. He did so again in 1990 for the 75th Anniversary of USCG Aviation.
Connie accumulated numerous awards and commendations through his flying career, including being awarded the first set of Honorary USCG wings, presented by the Secretary of Transportation in 1992. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Award, the highest civilian award given by the Navy, presented by Admiral F. B. Selso, II, Chief of Naval Operations, in 1992. He was awarded an FAA Special Recognition Award, presented by Donald Engen, Administrator, in 1986. He was awarded the President's Pilot Award in 1988. He received the John Henry Towers Award from the Naval Aviation Commandery, one of the most prestigious flying awards given in the U.S.A. He was awarded one of the few Navy League life memberships to be given. He was awarded "Sea Plane Pilot of the Year" by the Sea Plane Pilots Association, and the People's Choice award by the Experimental Aircraft Association in 1986. He was awarded a membership in the USCG's Order of the Pterodactyls and is a life member of the EAA, NRA, Air Force Historical Foundation, member of the Defense Orientation Conference Association, and member of the Royal Aero Club of Spain. He also served as Director of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation. Honorary wings earned by Connie include: Royal Air Force, Spanish Air Force, Canadian Air Force, Portuguese Air Force and United States Coast Guard, the first ever awarded by the USCG. Connie, his late brother, Budo, and his late son, Tex, were inducted into the Lone Star Flight Museum's "Texas Aviation Hall of Fame" in 2016. In September of 2018, Connie returned once again to Duxford, England, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the "Battle of Britain" movie filming.
An early member of the AOPA and president of the Air Force Association's Big Spring chapter, Connie remained active in base and community affairs. He also served as accident prevention counselor for the Lubbock, Texas district of the FAA and DOT. Connie's endeavors extend beyond the air having served as director of State National Bank, and director and major shareholder of various oilfield and farming and ranching companies. One of his more recent endeavors include his is co-founding of TexaStone Quarries, a limestone company that quarries and fabricates limestone for commercial and residential projects worldwide.
Wilson Connell "Connie" Edwards is preceded in death by his brother, W.P. "Budo" Edwards, and his son, Wilson C. "Tex" Edwards, Jr.
He is survived by his wife, Brenda Edwards; children, Patricia Zane of Dallas, Nicholas Deak of Austin; two daughters by marriage, Stefanie Park & husband Daniel of Liberty Hill, Texas and Tonya Crenwelge of Abilene; a total of eight grandchildren, Andrew Crenwelge & wife Nicole of Reston, VA, Blake Crenwelge of Reno, NV, Haylee Lou Park, Daniel Park, Jr. and Emilee Park of Liberty Hill, TX, Seth Crenwelge of Henderson, NV, Wilson C. "Trey" Edwards, III and Aislin Edwards, of Katy, TX. These eight grandchildren were his pride and joy.
Pallbearers will be Daniel Park Sr., Daniel Park Jr., Trey Edwards, Sam Polser, Jerry Kilgore and Pierre Ferrandi.
Connie and Brenda extend many thanks for their love and devotion over the years to Terry Adams, Brian Frerich, Vince Gray, Randy Price, Kirk Stephens, Stephen Wallis, Quade Weaver, Luke Crawford, Manuel Briseno, Luke Crawford, Alex Meja, David Salazar, Juan Carlos Rojas Torres, and Ricardo Ramos.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to: Happy Days Humane Society of Big Spring, 5710 W. Interstate 20, Big Spring, Texas, 79720 or The American Cancer Society.
The family will receive friends from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Monday, at Nalley-Pickle & Welch Funeral Home. Graveside services will be held 1 p.m. Tuesday, May 7, 2019, at Edwards Ranch Cemetery.
Arrangements are under the direction of Nalley-Pickle & Welch Funeral Home and Crematory. Online condolences can be made at www.npwelch.com.
Published by Big Spring Herald from May 6 to May 7, 2019.