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Local News

Aviation enthusiast Clarence Hess had passion for community

Clarence Hess
Clarence Hess

LOCKPORT – Clarence "Clancy" Hess, who spent his life sharing his enthusiasm for flying, died Thursday at the age of 93.

"Aviation was always in his blood and he was a great supporter of Lewis University Airport," said Wayne Draudt, executive assistant to the president at Lewis.

Draudt said Hess' enthusiasm for talking about aviation history and his own experiences never diminished through his decades of lecturing or arranging program events.

A Lockport resident since 1954, Hess grew up in Cook County and took his first solo flight at the age of 10.

"There was no FAA office back then,” a laughing Hess told The Herald-News in 2012.

His early experience made him a valuable pilot in the South Pacific Theater during World War II. Hess shot down a number of enemy planes and survived being shot down himself.

"Clancy didn't wear being a war hero on his sleeve, but his contributions were obvious when you listened to him," said former Herald-News editor Jan Larsen.

Hess flew for American Airlines from 1951 to 1981 and was a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Experimental Aircraft Association and United Flying Octogenarians. Hess was inducted into the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame in 2008.

He was also one of the earliest volunteers with Wings of Hope, which delivers food and supplies to remote areas in developing nations.

"Landing supplies in the middle of a jungle isn't simple and Clancy was a good, old-style, country boy aviator who knew the kind of pilots we needed," Wings of Hope President Doug Clements said Monday.

Besides aviation, Hess was also greatly concerned about the area and would regularly contact The Herald-News to offer his assessment and suggestions.

"He was a voice that cared and the community needed that," Larsen said. "It's too bad we've lost that link to history and that voice."

Hess is survived by his wife, Kathleen, six children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Funeral services will begin at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at O'Neil Funeral Home in Lockport. A burial mass will follow at 10 a.m. at St. Joseph Church in Lockport.

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