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Assisted living resident’s Navy service was ‘tremendously fortunate’

In 1948, Stuart Hutchison graduated from high school in WaKeeney, Kan., and enlisted in the Navy.

He had an older brother who was a Navy pilot, and Stuart wanted to go through the same training program.

“I had always been crazy about airplanes,” he said.

He began his training in Pensacola, Fla., where the Navy has several airfields dedicated to different aspects of flying.

Stuart learned to fly single-engine aircraft, an instructor sitting behind him with a second set of controls. Before they received their wings, Stuart and his fellow midshipmen had to take off and land on an air craft carrier, six times each.

At the end of his training in Pensacola, he had to decide whether to continue on with fighter jets or move to multi-engine planes dedicated to searches and transport.

“By that time, I decided I’d better go multi-engine, or I’d end up killing myself,” Stuart said.

He completed his advanced training in Corpus Christi, Tex., in November 1949 and was assigned to a patrol squadron on Naval Air Station Whidbey in Washington State. From there, they were deployed to an air base just outside Tokyo.

Stuart flew patrols along the China coast, over the Sea of Japan. Later, as things were “heating up” on the Korean Peninsula, he helped monitor shipping activity there.

He flew with a crew of eight or nine.

“We had really good people,” he said. “The guys who were mechanics did wonders at keeping the engines in shape. We didn’t have many problems.

“I was just tremendously fortunate in the kind of military service I got to participate in. An awful lot of good people worked in the squadron I was in.”

In 1953, Stuart returned to Kansas, serving as a pilot instructor at a naval air station just outside of Hutchison.

“At that time, I was married with two little children, and I had the opportunity to go off of active duty,” he said. “I figured I’d better go to college.”

Stuart studied civil engineering at Kansas State University. He remained in the military as a member of the Navy Reserve. Once a month, he spent a weekend at the air station in Olathe, and he was on active duty somewhere in the world for two weeks every summer. His last active service was in 1971. By that time, he had logged 4,000 pilot hours for the Navy.

For five years, Stuart worked for an engineering consulting firm in Topeka. Then he moved to Great Bend to work for a new civil engineering company. He and his first wife had four children: two girls and two boys.

Stuart moved to Presbyterian Manor almost a year ago after a short hospitalization.

“I’m in the right place,” he said. “This place is fantastic.”

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