Benjamin E. Colkitt ’42

Cdr. Benjamin E. Colkitt ’42 (USN Ret.) took his final flight on May 4, 2007. He was preceded in death by parents Benjamin and Isabel Colkitt, siblings Robert Bowne Colkitt and Doris McElroy and nephew Brad Jenkins. Survivors include his wife of fifty-six years, Donna, 449 Oakland St., Aurora, Colo. 80010-4745; his son Ben Colkitt III ’75 (wife Natalie Frei); daughters Michelle Colkitt (Steven Schneider), Candace James (Derek James), and Caralyn Colkitt; eleven grandchildren; two godchildren (Mehgan and Sarah McAuliffe); sister-in-law Evaline Colkitt; brother in law Paul McElroy; and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews. He was born into an old Quaker family, which settled and lived for many generations in Mount Holly, New Jersey. It was a short journey to Philadelphia, and when Charles “Lucky” Lindbergh returned there for a triumphal parade after the first transtlantic flight in 1927, Ben was there. His passion for flying had been sparked. Dad’s father moved his textile plant to Waynesville, N.C. soon after the Lindbergh parade. A Yankee boy in the rural South, Dad immersed himself in Scouting, and the motto, “Be Prepared” informed the whole of his life. He excelled academically in high school, and was accepted to and graduated from Davidson, whose Presbyterian faith he ultimately adopted. He spent every spare dime he had on private flight lessons while at Davidson, taking his first flight in a 37 HP Aeronica in September of 1939. During his senior year a Navy recruiter visited Charlotte and Ben was accepted for cadet training. A week after graduation, he received orders to Navy preflight school at the University of Georgia at Athens. A slender young man, he had to force feed a huge number of bananas to make the minimum weight requirement. His early service nickname was “Bones.” In World War II, he flew a number of combat missions and was awarded three air medals. He flew in the thousand-plane flight over the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay during the surrender ceremonies. Later he received orders to the Navy Line School at Newport, R.I. There, he met Ensign Donna Mueller, the love of his life. Shortly thereafter, on May 19, 1950, they were married in a traditional Navy ceremony. Shore duty followed as an instructor in the All Weather Flight School in Corpus Christi, Texas. On May 25, 1952, son Benjamin III was born at the Great Lakes Naval Station. Sea duty followed as Air Ops Officer on the USS Badoeng Strait (CVE 116) in the Yellow Sea off the west coast of Korea. While the ship was in the shipyard at San Francisco daughter Michelle was born at the Naval Hospital at Oak Knoll on May 15, 1953. During shore duty at NAS Jacksonville, daughters Candace and Caralyn were born on February 14, 1957. Ben retired from the Navy in 1964. In June of that year, he joined United Airlines in Denver as a simulator instructor, where he was typed on 727, 737, and DC-8. Ben also was typed in Lear Jets as part of his work as a general aviation instructor for twenty-five years. After 58 years of flying, he finally retired from aviation. Even then, he couldn’t stay away, and he volunteered at DIA and spent numerous hours at his computer on various flight simulation programs. He was a long time member of the Order of Quiet Birdmen, the Order of the Daedalians, the Tailhook Association, and the Naval Aviation Association.