Duncan Miller passed away peacefully at the Laurel Creek Care Center, Fairfield, and entered rest with his Lord Jesus Christ in heaven, Aug. 11, 2014. He was 93.
Duncan was born in Omaha, Neb., on July 21, 1921, of parents John and Catherine Miller. He married Dorothy May Nickerson in February 1946 and she passed away Feb. 6, 1983.
Duncan is survived by six children, Dan, Scott, Randy, Jennifer, Becky and Karen; grandchildren, Bonnie, Sarah, Kelly and Katherine; and great-grandchildren, Benjamin Duncan and Jacob Jeffrey.
He grew up and graduated from high school in Omaha. Always an industrious young man, he started work at a very early age, delivering newspapers and doing other part-time jobs, including working at a car dealership. He was always interested in flying and found an opportunity for aviation in the government-sponsored program prior to World War II called CPT (Civil Pilot Training) that led to receiving all pilot ratings, including commercial and flight instructor.
In 1940, he left Omaha to work in an aircraft factory in San Diego, Calif., helping to build the B-24. Early in World War II, he was selected to become a civilian flight instructor to help train the large influx of students needed to crew the many aircraft needed in the war effort. His personality was such that he developed an excellent reputation as a flight instructor, always getting his students through the program and on their way.
In 1944, he was called to active duty, commissioned as an Army Air Forces rated pilot with duties as a ferry pilot, delivering aircraft from the factory to their units in the United States and Alaska. He would have preferred a combat role, but did what the military told him to do. He joked over the years that he had the best job in the world, flying such fighter aircraft as the P-39, 40, 47 and 51 to great spots, finishing the war without firing a shot or getting fired upon. At the very end of the war, he was relieved of his ferry pilot duties and assigned to Fairfield-Suisun Army Air Field as a C-54 pilot, where he flew missions to the Far East. It was here where he was rejoined by fellow pilot from CPT days, Wilber Fitch. He and Wilber remained friends and business partners until Wilber’s death in 2000.
For a time after World War II, Duncan and Wilber instructed pilots in the civilian world who were training under the G.I. Bill of Rights. In 1948 Duncan, Wilber and another long time friend, Mike Hunt, formed a group and started an airline called Air Transport Associates, flying mostly C-46 aircraft within the U.S. and Alaska. This independent airline was so successful it ran afoul of a big major airline and the Civil Aeronautics board revoked their charter.
This led in 1956 to Duncan and Wilber forming a contracting company named U.S. Eagle that performed contractual services for the government throughout the continental United States and Hawaii. They sold the company in 1984 and retired after nearly 30 years of successful operation. U.S.Eagle operates yet today.
Duncan “bloomed” in his retirement years. Along with his church activities, community involvement with helping others and the Nut Tree airport, he was busier than ever. The Nut Tree and his many airplanes, his beloved J-3 Cub, Stearmans, the Tiger, the C-47 and other airplanes, were a labor of love. Duncan assisted innumerable young people in the pursuit of their love of aviation, furnishing not only airplanes for them to fly but fuel money as well. Another notable achievement was over 30 years of involvement with the Solano County Food Bank, picking up and distributing surplus goods to the needy. Equally important to Duncan was Mission Solano and its outreach program.
Duncan was a longtime resident of Gordon Valley and left his mark forever on that community. His dedication to the Gordon Valley Fire Department was evident by personal participation.
A strong attribute of Duncan’s was that he always had good words for all those he knew and was heard to say many times that he never met a person he didn’t like. His favorite saying was “Pals Forever.”
A memorial service will be at 1 p.m. Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at the Vacaville Nut Tree Airport, in the former Copart hangar. Reception will follow. Internment at the Sacramento National Cemetery, Dixon, will be at a later date.
Arrangements under the care of Bryan-Braker. You may sign the guest book at www.bryanbraker.com.