Irving L. Jones Jr.: 1921-2006

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Part-time Steamboat Springs resident and aviation pioneer Irving Jones died March 26, 2006, at Mount Sinai Hospital. He was 84.

Irving was born May 18, 1921, in Muskogee, Okla., to Irving and Sally Jones, and he was raised in Lubbock, Texas. He moved to Miami in 1950.

Irving's career in aviation, spanning the years between biplanes and space exploration, began his senior year at Lubbock High School when he soloed a Piper "Cub."

After two years in the engineering program at Texas Tech, he began instructing pilots for the U.S. Army Air Corps. He was hired by American Airlines on his 21st birthday and was made their youngest full captain at the age of 23. Loaned by American to the Air Transport Command in 1943, Irving began flying military routes, including the Canadian Arctic to the North African and East Asian tropics.

After the war, Irving continued his career in aviation as a Pan American World Airways check pilot from 1951 to 1961. In 1958, he and several partners created Cat Cay Airways, which later became Southeast Airlines, the first commuter airline in the U.S. with flights between Miami and Key West. Starting in 1968 as a founding member of Africair, he helped build a company with nearly 200 employees that provided aircraft and helicopter services in East and West Africa and became a major distributor of Cessna Aircraft in Africa and the Caribbean, and of Bell Helicopters in Africa. He remained active in the company until his recent illness.

In 2000, Irving's name was added to the National Air and Space Museum's Wall of Honor in recognition of his contributions to the development of commercial aviation and his passion for flight.

He was preceded in death by his former wife, Martha K. Jones; and his sister, Marilee Jones.

Irving is survived by his loving and devoted wife, Cathy. He also is survived by his children, Irving L. Jones III, Marilee Jones and Kathy L. McCormick; his grandchildren, Zachary Jones, Alison Downey, Andrew and Clare McCormick and Savannah Jones; Carole and Dr. James Taylor, Richard Lynch and Barry Lynch; and many loving nieces and nephews.

Irving Jones was a gentle giant, a man of great stature and true compassion. He was spiritual in his approach to life. Whether it was family, business, community or country, his helping hand always was extended to help others. He stood tall in all of his life's accomplishments. If you were fortunate enough to be called his friend, it was a lifetime commitment by him, and his friendship knew no boundaries. A universal man, Irving will be greatly missed by many.

Irving was a part-time resident of Steamboat for the past 12 years, and he loved the people, the mountains and the serenity.

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