Charles Houston Jamieson
Charles Houston Jamieson was born and raised on his grandparents’ dairy farm in Edmond, Oklahoma in 1924. The farm was one of the earliest dairy farms in Oklahoma. His experiences there, during the Oklahoma dustbowl, where he participated in everything from helping with the birth of a struggling calf to delivering milk with a horse and wagon, shaped a strong work ethic that continued throughout his life. Upon graduation in 1943 from Central State College (now University of Central Oklahoma) with a degree in chemistry, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, following his older brother who was already serving in the Army Air Corps in China.
He achieved a lifelong dream of learning to fly in the Navy and soloed his first airplane, a Taylorcraft, in 1943. As the Navy consolidated after WWII he volunteered for the US Coast Guard. He had a strong belief in its mission and continued as a Coast Guard Aviator, reaching the rank of Lieutenant operating flying boats on rescue and diplomatic flights. Upon his discharge from the Coast Guard he began work in the oil fields of Oklahoma and Texas for Core Laboratories. There he had the great fortune to become reacquainted with his college classmate Nelda Jean Stewart and they were married on December 20, 1947 a relationship that lasted 66 years. They had four sons: Larry, Mark, Bob, and Lee.
In 1948 Braniff Airways hired Charles in their first class of DC-6 flight engineers, beginning a career that lasted until 1984 when he retired from Braniff, having logged many thousands of hours in airplanes that ranged from the DC-3 to the Boeing 747. Highlights of his career included being a crew member on the first flight of Braniff’s new Boeing 707 in 1963. In addition to having a successful airline career, he always felt the need to give back to what he considered a somewhat fragile industry. He was a tireless volunteer on behalf of the pilots and was an elected representative for the Airline Pilots Association.
One memorable Braniff flight in a Convair helped shape his belief in being methodical and not rushing to judgment. At liftoff he and the Captain were startled by a very loud bang and the two engine Convair lurched to one side. Simultaneously, the left engine generator firelight illuminated. Braniff had recently had an airplane completely destroyed because of a generator fire and all crews were very aware of the danger. Fortunately, Charles was flying with one of the best Captains at Braniff. The Captain began to take immediate action and knew the proper procedure from memory. They quickly shut the engine down. After the prop was feathered, they both breathed a sigh of relief that the emergency was under control, when they heard another loud bang and the aircraft shuddered again. They had inadvertently shut down the good engine, and the bad engine was all they had flying the airplane! After a harrowing few minutes, they got the Convair safely back on the ground. It turned out that the generator firelight had come on because of the tremendous shaking of the airplane and an electrical short in the light, but there was no generator fire. After that experience he would frequently say that airplanes don’t read the Flight Manual and be very careful not to shut down the good engine. He used this philosophy as a guide for many life events unrelated to airplanes.
Never one to shirk hard work, he and Nelda Jean purchased the Viking Lodge in Estes Park, Colorado in 1972 and operated it for 35 years as the Landmark Motel.
In addition to balancing family and work, Charles had a strong sense of civic duty.
Some of his work included being a Commissioner for the City of Irving, Texas and flying blood donations in his Cessna. In 2010, he and Nelda were awarded a Certificate of Appreciation for establishing the West Irving Improvement Association in 1964, which helped deliver critical sewage and water service to the area known as Bear Creek.
He and Nelda, along with friends from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Irving, help found the Head Start program in Irving. Charles was also fortunate to work with conservationist Ned Fritz on sustainable forestry. Ned acknowledged Charles’ efforts in his last book on forestry.
In 1990, Charles volunteered for Project Lighthawk, a conservation organization. He and Nelda flew their Cessna 172 as far south as Panama and Costa Rica. He flew many missions in Costa Rica in support of Lighthawk’s conservation efforts there. Nelda patiently accompanied Charles on many trips in light planes. Once she asked her son, Mark, a pilot for FedEx, how much ice a Cessna 172 wing could handle before it would stall? Mark replied that he did not know; she had seen a lot more ice on airplanes than Mark had.
Even though Charles was a very practical person and minimized personal luxuries, he had a sense of wanderlust and provided many adventures for Nelda and his sons. Among these was a trip from Texas to Point Barrow, Alaska, on the Arctic Ocean, in a rented Cessna 310, combining airplane training for his son Larry and a thirty-day airplane ride with no checked luggage for the rest of the family. Basically, the family did all trips without checked baggage, even when flying on the airline, in part because they always flew standby.
Another trip found Charles reaching the top of 19,347’ Mt Cotopaxi in the Andes of Ecuador. Continuing his minimalist practice, Charles rented a Volkswagen Beetle in Quito and the five of them: Charles, Nelda, and sons Mark, Bob, and Lee traveled to the base of Cotopaxi with only the essentials needed to climb the mountain and little else. Nelda stayed in a town called Latacunga while the rest attempted the mountain. Charles made it to the summit of Cotopaxi in an exhausting push, a tremendous accomplishment for someone 54 years old who did not really believe in formal exercise.
In 1990 Charles again traveled to Alaska in a Cessna 310, this time taking Bob, Bob’s wife Sumi, and two friends to ski-climb 16,200’ Mt. Sanford. Because of the weight of the climbing and ski gear needed for the trip, of course nothing else could be taken. After doing the approach with the climbing team, Charles flew around the mountain up to 17,000’ to check on their progress with a two-way radio.
Charles was very generous and was always willing to help. When his friend Jack Goetz’s sister took a fall skiing in Taos, New Mexico, breaking her leg, he volunteered to fly out in the middle of the night along with Jack and Mark to bring her back to Dallas in his Cessna. He loved all opportunities to use his Cessna for any practical purpose.
An avid hiker when his schedule allowed, Charles had many outdoor adventures with his sons in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and Lake Tawokoni in Texas. He was an excellent outdoors person. He was on a climb of Long’s Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park when hurricane force winds nearly swept his son Lee off the mountain. He also accompanied Nelda on many bird watching trips throughout Texas and the southwest and had a deep and abiding respect for nature. He climbed Mount Chapin in Rocky Mountain National Park with two of his grandchildren when he was past 80 years old.
Charles lived life on his own terms and subscribed to no conventional religious beliefs, but was a Unitarian at heart. He was a very tough, optimistic, and grateful person who worked to make things better for a lot of people. He was this way despite tragic events that shaped his life, including his father dying in a plane crash when he was eight, his only sibling dying in a plane crash in WWII at age 25, and his youngest son Lee dying in a climbing fall in 1984. He believed that all things are connected in the circle of life and in the inherent dignity and worth of all people. He remained non-complaining to the end, even in the face of tremendous adversity over a long period of time. Nelda Jean preceded him in death on April 1, 2013.
He is survived by his sons Larry (Terry), Mark (Stasia), and Bob (Sumi), seven grandchildren, Cory (Erica), Alex, Emily, Katie, Charlie, Keo, and Quinn and one great-grand child, Dylan.
Contributions can be made to:
John Austin Cheley Foundation, c/o FirstBank
PO Box 151663, Lakewood CO 80215-8663. The family can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.