By Nicole Hamilton
The Cincinnati Enquirer
George Wedekind not only knew many of the leaders in aviation, he was one himself.
An expert on - and friend of - the famous Wright family, Mr. Wedekind served on the board of nominations for the National Aviation Hall of Fame and was director of the U.S. Air and Trade Show for 22 years.
In the late 1990s, he was instrumental in changing the Ohio license plate. After petitioning the state legislature, he got the slogan "First in Aviation" displayed on new plates.
"His friends were his wealth," said his son-in-law, Michael Bogumill of Front Royal, Va.
"When he was the director of the Middletown airport, he would pay his employees before paying himself."
George J. Wedekind Jr. died Friday at his home in Fairborn, Ohio, after a long illness. He was 80.
He lived long enough to fulfill one of his dreams - to take part in Dayton's July celebration of the 100th year of flight.
His father, George Sr., opened Middletown Municipal Airport in 1924. George Jr. was 17 when he took his first solo flight, in an Aeronca Chief airplane.
In 1942, after graduating from Middletown High School, Mr. Wedekind began attending Miami University and joined the Army Air Corps Reserve.
After he earned his commercial pilot certificate in 1943, he was assigned to teach primary and intermediate Naval cadets at Miami University's flight school.
The flight school closed in 1944 and Mr. Wedekind entered active duty in the Army Air Corps, where he was a flight engineer and mechanic at various bases in the western United States.
While stationed in Amarillo, Texas, he married his longtime sweetheart, Wilma, whom he first met in grammar school.
Honorably discharged in June 1946, he returned to Middletown.
During the next 48 years, Mr. Wedekind logged more than 17,000 hours in flying time as a pilot in command.
Operating as a charter pilot, corporation pilot and air show pilot, he also owned a business - Wedekind Aircraft Inc. - and was a sought-after flight instructor.
"It was quite an honor to fly with my father," said his daughter, Mary Alice Bogumill of Front Royal, Va., who was 7 when her father first gave her flying lessons.
"You knew when you learned from him that when you were ready to fly, you really knew what you were doing."
He was an appointed flight examiner for the Federal Aviation Administration for 38 years, giving more than 2,000 flight tests. Mr. Wedekind also was airport manager for the City of Middletown.
He volunteered in 1974 to help turn the Dayton Air Fair into a major event.
And after he sold his business in 1986, he dedicated himself to the fair full time, sometimes driving back and forth from Middletown to Dayton three times in one day.
In September 1994, he retired as director of U.S. Air and Trade Show (now the Vectren Dayton Air Show)
Mr. Wedekind was the recipient of numerous awards from the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Aeronautics Association, the Ohio National Guard, Ohio chapter of Silver Wings and Aviation Trail Inc.
He was a member of the board of trustees and past president of the Aviation Trail Association, and served on the board of trustees of Inventing Flight.
In addition to his wife of 59 years, Wilma, and daughter, Mary Alice, he is survived by two other daughters, Susan Waits of Monroe, and Jenni Wedekind of Fairborn; six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be 5-8 p.m. Tuesday at Bretenbach-McCoy-Leffler Funeral Home, 517 S. Sutphin St., Middletown. Service will be 1 p.m. Wednesday at the funeral home. Burial will be in Woodside Cemetery, Middletown.
Memorials can be made to Middletown Aviation Club Building Fund, P.O. Box 765, Middletown, 45042.
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