Raymond B. Kleber (Col USAF, Ret) “Headed West” on March 13, 2021.
Colonel Raymond B. Kleber USAF Ret, former Seymour Johnson Base Commander and pilot died on March 13th, 2021. He was born April 4th, 1925 to Joseph and Antonia Kleber of Aliquippa, PA. Colonel Kleber was a true American Patriot and had built a respected career serving 32 ½ years with the U.S. Air Force. During this time, he completed more than 6000 hours of flying. Of those hours, 500 were flown on 302 combat missions. He also had the honor to have flown over 87 different aircraft over the past 80 years. For his service he was awarded the Legion of Merit Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star Medal, the Air Medal with 16 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Joint Services Commendations Medal, to include thirteen additional medals during his distinguished military career.
At the age of 13, he began working at a small airport near his hometown of Aliquippa, PA. where in exchange for work performed, he was given flying lessons. On August 28th, 1941, at the age of 16, he flew his first solo flight. On December 1st, 1941 he joined the Civil Air Patrol and on February 25th, 1943, he signed up to volunteer to serve in the Army Air Corps.
After receiving his Pilot wings in 1945, he was assigned to fly the P-40N. In 1946 he was sent to Germany as part of the Occupation Forces where he would fly the P-51D. While stationed in Kitzingen, Germany he met his wife-to-be, Zita. Upon returning to the USA, he sent for her and they were married in his hometown on January 3rd, 1948. He again received orders to return to Germany. In 1954 and 1955, he and Zita adopted daughter Mary Ann and son Theodore from a German orphanage.
While in Germany at Hahn AB he flew the F-86F. Further assignments included Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands for Atomic Bomb tests, Netherlands where he flew the F-100C, Ankara, Turkey as the F-100D advisor to the Turkish Air Force, Cannon AFB, NM, Alaska, Thailand, and Vietnam where he was the 612th Fighter Squadron Commander and flew the F100D/F. He again returned to Germany where he was assigned as the Commander of the 616th AC&W Squadron for the next 4 plus years. It was there that he learned to fly and tow gliders in his off-duty time.
He arrived at Seymour Johnson AFB in August of 1973 where he served as Deputy and Base Commander until his retirement on August 31st, 1975. After retirement, he continued to be active in the Civil Air Patrol, flying as a mission pilot. On December 10th, 2014, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his services with the CAP in the early days of WWII. As a volunteer with the Red Cross, he donated over 20 gallons of blood. He was also an active member of the Knights of Columbus, F-86 Sabre and F-100 Super Sabre Societies, MOAA, River Rats, Daedalians, NC Soaring Assoc., the Golden K Kiwanis, American Legion, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He was honored with the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award for over 65 years of accident-free flying. In soaring he earned his Gold Badge with the 3 Diamonds for goal, distance, and altitude over a 39-year period. He also volunteered at the SJB pharmacy for over thirty years for which he earned the President’s Call to Service Award.
During his spare time, he enjoyed spending time in his woodshop where he made beautiful rocking horses, bowls, necklaces, and bracelets, all Blue-Ribbon winners at State and County Fairs.
He was preceded in death by wives Zita and Elke, daughter Mary Ann Wright, brothers Dr. John Kleber Ph.D. and Father Cecil Kleber OFM. He is survived by his son Theodore Kleber and his wife Judy. Grandchildren Christian Nickel (Chanel), Jessica Pafford (Brandon), Rachel, Christopher, Shelley and Sally Fittler, Amy Topping (Dan), Nicole Avina. He was also blessed with 13 great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. He is also survived by his sister Mary Therese Brehany and very dear friend Ms. Audrey Brow.
The family will receive friends on Friday, March 19, 2021, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. at Seymour Funeral Home. A mass of Christian burial will be held to celebrate his life at St. Mary Roman Catholic Church in Goldsboro at 11:00 am on Saturday, March 20, 2021.
In lieu of flowers, donations should be sent to the Knights of Columbus Council #5487, PO Box 10025, Goldsboro, NC 27532.
Online condolences may be sent to the family at www.seymourfuneralhome.com.
To see a tribute to Col Kleber click here