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Blue skies,

Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Mount Vernon, IL Aviation Community Mourns the Passing of Mr. Max Firebaugh

By Carmelo Turdo
The Mount Vernon, IL aviation community mourns the passing of Mr. Max Firebaugh, a World War II veteran and former manager of Mount Vernon Outland Airport.  Mr. Firebaugh, 90, passed away on New Year's Eve  2011 at Fair Park Health Center in Maryville, Tennessee after he earlier suffered a series of mini-strokes at his home in Mt. Vernon.  The family is planning for a Tuesday evening visitation at Hughey Funeral Home in Mt. Vernon. The funeral is planned for Wednesday afternoon at Central Christian Church.  As current Mount Vernon Outland Airport Manager, Chris Collins, told The Aero Experience: "As one member of the family put it: 'We have lost a great aviator, airport manager, soldier, American, and friend!'"

Lt. Max Firebaugh, Dec. 1942
Max Firebaugh had a long and distinguished aeronautical career, beginning with his enlistment in the U.S. Army Air Corps as an Air Cadet soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  He later flew Martin B-26 Marauder bombers in Europe, including supporting the D-Day landings.  He retired later as an Air Force Reserve lieutenant colonel.  

Mount Vernon's favorite son was also known for an early aeronautical exploit over town.  Collins relates the story this way: "During a 1943 cross-country test flight, Max wanted to say hello to his friends and family back home and Mt. Vernon was directly on course.  As legend states, windows were rattled in the Rogers Building downtown.  Max’s mother was so inspired by the act, she wrote a letter to her favorite poet, Edgar Guest.  The letter described the flight through Mt. Vernon by one of its own preparing to fight overseas.  Mr. Guest crafted a poem “Dusting off His Hometown” in tribute to Max’s aerial antics over Mt. Vernon.  The poem was published in syndicated newspapers as well as the Saturday Evening Post on July 27, 1943.  Max spent the rest of his life fearful that the Civil Aeronautics Administration, and later, the Federal Aviation Administration, would render punishment."

Post Card Sent by Max Firebaugh from England
Max Firebaugh's remembrance in the Mount Vernon Register News continues: "After WW-2, Max returned to the University of Illinois, graduating in 1947 with a BS in Geology. During his career as a geologist, Max worked for Illinois State Geological Survey, Sohio Pipeline Co., and from 1948 through 1966 for Collins Brothers Oil Co. He served as president of Illinois Geological Society in 1956-1957. In 1966, Max became manager of the Mount Vernon Outland Airport. For the next 23 years, he worked aggressively to turn Mount Vernon Outland Airport into a regional facility that provides excellent commercial services to individuals and industries in the area. In the years following his retirement as manager, Max continued to play a role in advancing the airport, offering wise counsel and sometimes physical help."

After serving members of the local aviation community for most of his life, there came a time in November of 2011 when Max Firebaugh needed their help, and they quickly came to his aid.  After falling ill following a series of strokes, family members living in Knoxville, Tennessee felt it would be better for him to be with them rather than remain in Mount Vernon.  Airport Manager Chris Collins continues: "Mt. Vernon Outland Airport Management sought assistance from the local aviation community for help relocating Max to Knoxville. Within one hour of the request, Dr. Alan Froehling generously offered to fly Max in his Piper Navajo aircraft. A request for someone with the skills to care for Max during the flight was answered by longtime Mt. Vernon Physician, and Max’s personal Doctor and friend, Dr. Richard Garretson. Nurse Millie, from Dr. Garretson’s Office, volunteered to help as well. Also assisting with the flight were the aviation mechanics at SRT Aviation who helped ready the aircraft for the flight. Litton Ambulance Service provided Max’s transportation from Countryside Manor to the airport.

 "Friday, December 23, 2011, was cold and windy so the team decided to load Max inside the Heroes Memorial Hangar. Many of Max’s friends, airport employees, airport board members, and aviation enthusiasts showed up to say what is hoped to be a temporary “goodbye” to a favorite son and an aviation legend. Although Max had very hard feelings leaving his beloved Mt. Vernon, he knew he had a better chance recovering with his family members by his side in Tennessee." 

Sadly, he did not recover, but has again returned to a grateful Mount Vernon.  Memorials may be given to Central Christian Church Food Pantry and will be accepted at the funeral home, church or may be mailed to Hughey Funeral Home, P.O. Box 721, Mt. Vernon, Illinois 62864. 

For more information about Max Firebaugh, please visit:

Hughey Funeral Home:

U.S. Military Tribute: 

(Photos and background information for this feature were provided by Chris Collins). 

1 comment:

Vagabond Recon777 said...

Wonderful write up. I miss Max. John Creighton Cummins.