Lester A. Roberts, 84, of Carmel, Indiana, passed away October 23, 2019. He was born January 14, 1935, in Hortonville, Indiana, the son of the late Pliny and Velma (Kellam) Roberts. He married Rose M. Gross, from Greentown, Indiana, on July 6, 1957.
Lester graduated from Westfield High School in 1953, proudly at the top of his class. After graduation, he worked at the Marmon-Harrington Company and then Allison Division of General Motors in Indianapolis, as a mechanical draftsman. He attended various civilian correspondence schools, Air Force Pilot/Officer Candidate School and The Industrial War College of the Armed Forces.
Lester was employed for thirty-eight years as an airline pilot from 1957-1995, and flew for Capital Airlines, Lake Central, Allegheny, and US Airways. He flew the world’s first four engine airliner, the DC-4. He also flew the world’s first turbo-prop airliner, the British Vickers Viscount.
Lester also spent twenty-three years in the U.S. Air Force, Indiana Air National Guard, and the U.S Air Force Reserve, serving from 1953-1976, and retired as a full colonel. Lester joined as an Airman Basic, 113th Fighter Squadron, later advancing to Fighter Squadron Commander in 1971 as a Lt. Colonel. Also worth noting is that he became a “Mach Buster” by flying through the sound barrier in an F-86F at the age of twenty. He even managed to win the unit’s Top Gun award in 1972, in the F100. Miraculously, he walked away from two of his three emergency landings in F84s and saved two of the airplanes. Newspaper headlines read, “Guard Pilot Lands with Dead Engines,” “Jet’s Engine Quits, Pilot Lands Safely,” and “Jet Crash Avoided at Air Base.”
Colonel Roberts realized that flying was for him while taking flying lessons in Sheridan, Indiana, and piloting his first solo journey. He went on to accumulate over twenty-nine thousand flight hours in airline, military, and civilian aircraft. He purchased and enjoyed flying several private airplanes including a two-seater Piper Vagabond, a Cessna 182, and finally an American Legend Cub. The Cessna made two trips to Alaska, several nonstop flights to Florida, as well as many other places in the United States.
In addition to flying, Lester was a builder, contractor, developer, and landlord. He enjoyed managing investments, including several orange groves in Florida. He enjoyed traveling for pleasure and taking many family trips. They traveled by train in 1977 from Denver to Salt Lake City. They enjoyed a two- week bus tour of several countries in Europe in 1984, numerous spring vacations in Marco Island, Florida and a memorable cruise from Seward, Alaska to Vancouver B.C. He enjoyed outings with friends for breakfast, going to airshows in Las Vegas, attending Warren Buffet’s shareholder conference in Omaha, Nebraska, as well as various other adventures with his buddies.
He is survived by his loving wife of 62 years, Rose Roberts; three children, Teresa (Bob) Anderson, Mary (Kurt) Auzins, and Helen (Skip) Roberts-Sorg; three grandsons, Ryan (Kristen Dittus) Anderson, Kyle Anderson, and Graham Sorg; brother, Clifford (Dianna) Roberts; and sister-in-law, Charlene Roberts. He was preceded in passing by a sister, Lenora (Bob) Montgomery; and two brothers, Albert (Mary Lou) Roberts and Chester Roberts.
Services were held on Saturday, November 2, 2019. Online condolences may be shared by visiting flannerbuchanan.com.