Obituary of Dale L. Fleck
January 22, 2018
Dale L. Fleck passed away in Grass Valley, California on December 27, 2017, at the age of 99. He was an intelligent and accomplished individual with a dignified and reserved demeanor. For most of his life, he was in excellent health and took good care of himself.
Dale was born in eastern Oregon to parents Bifford and Myrtle Fleck, the eldest of three children. His family moved to Redmond, Oregon when he was 11 years old. Growing up, he helped with the family's farming and ranching chores, and was a member of the Boy Scouts and Future Farmers of America. He completed his education through high school in Redmond.
Dale married Dorothy Kimball in 1943. They were amicably divorced a few years later. He married Esther Hawkins in 1948. Dale met Esther in Florida, and they spent much of their married life in the general Los Angeles area. They were happily married for over 28 years before Esther died of cancer in 1976 at the age of 51. He enjoyed about 38 years with his partner, Phyllis Sanders, whom he met in the Los Angeles area around 1980. Phyllis was also widowed at an early age. Dale and Phyllis moved to Grass Valley, California in 1991.
Dale joined the Army Air Corps soon after graduating from high school in 1936. He was stationed in various places including the Hawaiian Islands, Colorado, Canada, Greenland, Florida, Mississippi, and California, as well as the African and Asiatic Theatre of World War II. He was also a Korean War veteran. While a Master Sergeant, flight engineer, and crew chief on a B-24, he was awarded the Air Medal for "meritorious achievement … in aerial combat." During WWII, he narrowly escaped death when he was pulled off an airplane that later got shot down. It was fortuitous that there weren't enough parachutes to take everyone. During his 20-year career of continued advancement in the Air Force officer ranks, he learned to fly and flew various airplanes including B-24, B-29 and B-36 bombers.
His love of flying carried over into his personal life where he and Esther owned and flew two- and four-passenger airplanes over the years. Phyllis often accompanied Dale on his flights. He was active in flying associations, including the local Golden Empire Flying Association. Dale flew until he was almost 94 and drove until his death. He performed the maintenance on his airplanes himself.
Dale traveled to many places in the US and the world. He took several trips with Phyllis to European destinations, where she particularly enjoyed the area's history, and to Australia and New Zealand. Using the GI Bill, he earned a college degree in aeronautical engineering. After retiring from the Air Force, Dale was hired by Rocketdyne where he worked on various projects for NASA; including the engine used in the first US manned space flight, and the Saturn V rocket engines that propelled astronauts to the moon. Following a downsizing at Rocketdyne, he briefly worked as a real estate agent alongside Esther.
When Rocketdyne's funding improved, he was reinstated, and worked for them until his retirement. Dale was preceded in death by his wife, Esther; sister, Audrey Cram; and brother, Philip Fleck. He is survived by his partner, Phyllis; nieces and nephews and their extended families; and Phyllis's children and their extended families.