Donald Boyd Fitzwater, 83 years of age, of Beatrice, passed away at the Beatrice Good Samaritan Center Friday morning, June 19, 2015. He was born on December 06, 1931 at Filley, Neb., to Ben and Gertrude (Thomsen) Fitzwater. He moved to Beatrice at the age of 4, attended Country School through the eighth grade and graduated from Beatrice High School in 1949. He earned his private pilot license in 1951. The commercial and flight instructor ratings he achieved in 1953.
He worked with his father building houses until 1954 when he was hired by the Beatrice Airport to be airport manager, a position he held for 46 years, retiring January 1, 2000. Don held the title of being the only airport manager at the same airport for 46 years and served as chairman of the Airport Authority from 2000 to 2014. He married Evalyn Barnard May 21, 1955.
During the 50s, 60s and 70s, Don did flight instruction and flew charters throughout the Midwest. He was squadron commander of the Civil Air Patrol Chapter, one of the founders of the Flying Conestogas (an aviation and airport booster organization), instrumental in putting up the Air Force Jet at the Airport, and was one of first weather observers in the Nebraska Observation System starting in 1956. In 1993, Don was awarded the Nebraska and International Flying Farmers and Ranchers “Airport Operator”Award. He believed in efficient service, a neat and clean facility and a friendly atmosphere at the Beatrice Municipal Airport for which he received the first award given for “The Nebraska Airport of the Year." Don believed and was heard to say “The Beatrice Airport is the Front Door to Beatrice,” making the airport what it is today. Don was awarded the Presidential Citation by the AOPA in 1991, the highest AOPA award given in the field of aviation.
Through the years, Don held all of the offices of the Nebraska Association of Airport Officials and was inducted in the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame in 2001. He was member of Elks, Eagles, sons of the American Legion, Jaycees, NRA, AOPA, Masons and Sesostris Shrine, re-organized the Jayhusker Antique Car Club and started the first Swap meet, was instrumental in forming the Gage County Historical Society in 1971 as President and served on the board for many years, and organized and served as President of the Beatrice Airport Foundation, which was organized in 1991.
Don invented and patented the Fitzhook, a hook to tie down airplanes, and the Evaring, a vegetation protector around runway lights. Don had many interests and was a collector of many things -- antique and classic cars, old carpenter tools, gas engines, guns and airplane paraphernalia, and anything connected with aviation. He was known by many in the field of aviation and by his numerous interests.
Survivors include his wife, Evalyn; children, Scott W. and wife Janene of Beatrice, Pamela S. Fitzwater-Johanson of Houston, Texas, and Todd B. and wife Patty of Wichita, Kan.; grandchildren, Benjamin D., Robert S. Fitzwater of Beatrice. Zachary W. Fitzwater, Wichitia, Kan. He was preceded in death by his parents.
Funeral service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 23, 2015 at the First Presbyterian Church in Beatrice with Rev. Kelly Karges and Rev. Sharon Schuster officiating. Interment will be in the Evergreen Home Cemetery. The body will lie in state Monday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Griffiths-Hovendick Chapel in Beatrice and at the church one hour preceding the service. A memorial has been established to the family's choice with the funeral home in charge. A family prayer service will be held at 10:15 a.m. at the church. Sign Don's online guest book at www.ghchapel.com.
These services have been entrusted to the Griffiths-Hovendick Chapel in Beatrice.