Henry R Hirsch (Hank) passed peacefully on his 86th birthday, on May 1, 2007. He was deeply loved and respected, a devoted husband and family man survived by his loving wife of 35 years, Erleen, his 6 children, 2 step-sons and 16 grandchildren. Also survived by his sister, Sally Gautraud, 94, a devoted sibling of her loving brother, who helped bring him up and was as proud of him as ever.
The son of Hungarian immigrants, Benjamin and Hannah Hirsch, Hank was born in Brooklyn, and grew up in Queens, NY. He earned a college degree at the University of Nebraska in Military Science. He was pre-deceased by his first wife of 23 years, Mary Ann Gibney Hirsch (1970), and their first daughter, Meran (1964).
A full-fledged member of the Greatest Generation, Hank was drafted into the Army as a foot soldier in 1941. When the Army Air Corps sought pilot trainees, Hank volunteered, earned his wings as a fighter pilot, and flew P-51 Mustangs and P-47 Thunderbolts, and three sorties on D-Day and missions in Europe throughout WWII. Hank earned numerous medals, including the Purple Heart.
During the Cold War, he was with the USAF Strategic Air Command and flew B-29s, -47s, -50s, -52s, and -58s. In the mid-1950s, after piloting a B-52 bomber on a 12-hour mission around the North Pole, a newspaper reporter asked the slightly built Major Hirsch How does such a little guy like you fly such a big plane? Major Hirsch replied I just strap it to my [backside] and it flies wherever I want it to. Hank was also the Project Officer and test pilot for the SR-71, also known as the Blackbird, in the 1960s.
Stationed at many bases around the world, he retired as a full Colonel from Travis AFB to Davis, California, in 1971. Finding he couldnt just retire, he worked for another 11 years at Davis Varsity Datsun.
Hank was a member of the Retired Officers Association, had a love for airplanes and fast cars, and was a voracious reader, an avid fisherman, world traveler, and tinkerer of clocks.
Children: Catia, Patricia (& Joe Schneider), Rick (& Vicki), Elizabeth Campbell, Susan, JayR (& Beth) Hirsch; and Step-sons: Fred (& LaWanda), and Brian Zscheile. Grandchildren: Sailas (& April), Kaylan, Alexis, Shane, Mackenzie, Tim, Michael, Haley, Abbey, Laban, Lara, Tiffany, Davis, Trevor, Colin & Pearce.
There will be a celebration of life at a later date. He will be buried at Sacramento Valley VA National Cemetery, 5810 Midway Rd. in Dixon. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society.