Harry Charles Korthals, 93, of La Crosse, passed away at 4:00 AM, Tuesday, May 1, 2018 at his apartment in Eagle Crest South Community in La Crosse, Wis.
Harry was born in La Crosse to Henry and Lydia (Wehling) Korthals on March 31, 1925. He attended the elementary Lutheran school affectionately referred to as “Dutch College.” He graduated from La Crosse Central High School in 1943. As a young boy, he enjoyed hunting and fishing along the banks of the Mississippi River, roaming the bluffs and working on the Wehling farm in Stoddard. In high school, he played football, ran track and excelled in speed skating with the Wisconsin Skating Association, earning both regional and national recognition.
At the age of 17, he traveled north to Canada with his mother’s blessing, and attempted to join the Canadian Air Force, but was turned away as under-aged. Undaunted, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a flying cadet in August of 1943. In April 1945, he received his wings at the Enid Army Airfield in Oklahoma. He later qualified to fly B-25 and B-24 bombers.
Following the war, in the fall of 1946 Harry attended La Crosse Teachers College. There he spotted his future wife Mary in her modern dance class. They were married on Sept. 1, 1948. The young couple moved to Decorah, Iowa so Harry could attend Luther College and instruct in the AFROTC program. Their first child, Richard, was born in the fall of 1949. Harry graduated with a BA in Business Administration in 1950.
Harry served with the Minneapolis AFRTC from May 1951 through September 1953, and was activated for 2 ½ years during the Korean conflict. His degree dictated an assignment to Bradley University AFROTC program in Peoria, Illinois as the Assistant Director of Air Science and Tactics. In the spring of 1953, the second child, Ronald, was born. The family relocated to the Chicago area, and Harry flew for over sixteen years as a KC-97 Stratotanker pilot with the 126th Air Refueling Group of the Illinois National Guard.
Harry retired from the Air Force in March 1985, having attained the rank of Major. His military service spanned a period of more than twenty years.
In 1955 Harry was hired by American Airlines as a co-pilot on the Convair 240. In the summer of 1960, the third child, Nancy, was born. Harry later qualified as Captain in August 1966. His 30 year career included qualifications on the DC-6, DC-7, Electra, Convair 990, BAC-111, B-727, B-707, DC-10 and B-747 aircraft. He served in positions as an instructor pilot, line check pilot, and DC-10/B-747 Program Manager. He was promoted to Director of Flying Instruction in May 1980.
Approaching retirement, Harry purchased the Wehling farm and established a business raising Black Angus cattle. Somewhat predictably, his affinity for the animals resulted in a rather unusual collection of oversized pets. Harry continued flying for the Nomads Air Travel Club out of Detroit, Michigan, and with Mary at his side, traveled throughout the world until May 1990.
Harry loved Wisconsin and the La Crosse area in particular. His favorite pastimes included boating, snowmobiling and flying his Piper Cub at low levels over his cabin in Hayward, Wisconsin. Harry loved the outdoors and he had a soft heart for animals. His true joy, however, came through sharing in the lives of his friends and family, and learning about other people. He loved his country, he was committed to his church, and he loved the Lord. His life was an extraordinary example for all of us.
Harry was preceded in death by his parents, Henry and Lydia, an infant daughter and his son Richard.
Harry is survived by his wife Mary of La Crosse, his son Ron (Sandi), his daughter Nancy (Jim) and their two children, Matthew and Laura (Kaleb), and their daughter-in-law Cathy and her three children Kim (Wyatt), Kris and Tony and great-grandchildren Nathaniel and Nicholas.
Funeral Services will be held at 11:00 AM, on Monday, May 7, 2018, at First Evangelical Lutheran Church, 400 West Ave. South, La Crosse, Wis. Rev. Richard Pamperin will officiate with burial to take place in St. Matthews Cemetery in Stoddard, Wis. Family and friends may visit from 10:00 AM until the time of services at the Church on Monday.
Military Honors will be performed by the Roy L. Vingers American Legion Post No. 52, and Active Duty Air Force at Church following services.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be sent to the Coulee Region Humane Society at 911 Critter Ct., Onalaska, WI 54650.
The family wishes to express their gratitude to the doctors, nurses and staff of the La Crosse Lutheran Hospital, Gundersen Clinic and Gundersen Hospice for their support in the final days