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Obituary Stories

Westmoreland City man loved flying

Jeff Himler
| Saturday, May 12, 2018, 4:30 p.m.
Leonard Dee
Leonard Dee

Flying was Leonard Dee's first love, but not his last.

As a teen in Swissvale in the early 1940s, he would take a trolley to an airfield at West Mifflin, where he earned his private pilot's license at 16.

“Flying was his passion,” said his youngest son, James.

An Army veteran, Mr. Dee entered the service when World War II was winding down, missing a chance to be a pilot in the Pacific Theater. Stationed in Germany, “He did a little bit of everything,” James said. That included guard duty and shooting photos while aloft and on the ground.

Back in Pittsburgh, Mr. Dee worked as a pilot for Allegheny Airlines, flying a twin-engine Beechcraft on mail runs across Pennsylvania. But he parted ways with the company just 10 flight-hours short of a career milestone — testing to advance from co-pilot to pilot.

Mr. Dee's job was being transferred out of state, but he elected to stay in Pittsburgh in order to marry.

“He chose love over the career,” his son said.

Mr. Leonard E. Dee, 91, of Westmoreland City died Tuesday, May 8, 2018. He was born Aug. 3, 1926, in Pittsburgh, a son of the late David and Margaret Dee.

Mr. Dee retired in 1985 as a field train master for the Union Railroad. He'd worked for more than 30 years with the rail line that serviced area steel mills.

He continued to fly small, single-engine planes for pleasure out of airports in Monroeville, North Huntingdon and Unity. His longest flights were to pilot conventions in Oshkosh, Wis.

Mr. Dee taught three of his sons to fly — including his eldest, Robert, who went on to pilot an Army helicopter.

Robert said his father was “the type of pilot who knew how to fly by feel.” But, “He was safety-oriented, not a show-off. He would tell me, ‘There's old pilots and there's bold pilots, but no old, bold pilots.'”

After 9/11 placed more restrictions on the nation's airways, Mr. Dee spent less time in a cockpit and more switching out a series of new automobiles. “He used to pride himself that he could buy a car and trade it in six months later for more than he'd paid for it,” James said.

Mr. Dee was a member of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Irwin.

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his first wife, Rosemarie, and his second wife, Pauline.

He is survived by his children, Patricia Rocco of Monroeville, Diane Oakley of Dallas, Texas, Robert of Hinesville, Ga., Leonard of North Huntingdon, David of Irwin, Lawrence of Hagerstown, Md., Kathleen Clark of Madison, Wis., Richard of Phoenix, Ariz., and James of Crown Point, Ind.; stepchildren, Linda Costa, Gary Ash and Robert Ash; 14 grandchildren; numerous great-grandchildren.

Interment was at St. Joseph Cemetery, North Versailles.

William Snyder Funeral Home, Irwin, was in charge of arrangements.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622, or via Twitter @jhimler_news.

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