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Roy Franklin 1924 — 2011 | Passages

Local aviation pioneer Roy Vincent Franklin, who died Feb. 3 at the age of 86, stands in front of the airplane that helped make him a legend among Pacific Northwest aviators, a Stinson 108, better known to islanders as the workhorse of Franklin
Local aviation pioneer Roy Vincent Franklin, who died Feb. 3 at the age of 86, stands in front of the airplane that helped make him a legend among Pacific Northwest aviators, a Stinson 108, better known to islanders as the workhorse of Franklin's 'Island Sky Ferries'.
— image credit: Contributed photo

Editor's note: Memorial services will be held for Roy Franklin at 1:30 p.m, Saturday Feb. 26, 2011 at the Island Air hanger, Airport Circle Drive, at Friday Harbor Airport. The family welcomes all who wish to share in the celebration of Roy's life. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Alzheimer's Association.

Roy Vincent Franklin passed away at his home in Friday Harbor Feb. 3, 2011, at the age of 86.

He was the second of four children born to Roy, Sr., and Alice Franklin.

Roy was born on the family farm in Ferndale, Wash., May 1, 1924.

He grew up in an era of difficult times, hard work, few amenities and fierce independence. It would shape the character of his life.

The beginning of WWII found Roy a high school junior and determined to join the army. His father, a WWI veteran, refused to sign the permission slip required for those less than 18 years old.

This was a bitter pill for Roy and there were hard feelings, however, his father's action set Roy on a new course that would define his life's work.

Fascinated with airplanes, Roy took advantage of the time until graduation from high school to gain acceptance into the Naval Flight program.

Flight school was no picnic. In the last stages of the war effort, upwards of 80 percent of flight cadets were being washed out. Roy excelled, and out of roughly 200 pilots in his squadron only six were given fighter slots.

As a carrier pilot, Roy flew Wild Cats, Hell Cats, Corsairs and Bear Cats. While on leave, Roy met a beautiful young girl named Margaret Ann Skinner and they were soon married.

After the war, Roy accepted a job flying for a small startup air taxi in the San Juan Islands. That little air taxi, operating out of a cow pasture, had just one airplane and one pilot... Roy. In 1948, Roy, at 23, and his bride, Margaret Ann, at 19, and their one year old son moved to the islands.

The history of Roy and Margaret's life of more than 30 years building a reliable and safe air transportation service within the San Juans has been well chronicled in various articles, the book “Commuter Airlines of the Unied States”, Smithsonian, and a book Roy published in 2006: “Island Bush Pilot”.

In 2000, Roy was inducted into the Washington Aviation Hall of Fame. As quoted in Commuter Airlines of the United States, Smithsonian Institution press, “Roy Franklin has captured the spirit of the true pioneer and epitomized the attitudes of those commuter airline promoters whose instincts were true and whose convictions were strong as they created the nucleus of this definitive segment of the U.S. Air transport industry. Franklin's words are an inspired tribute to a special breed of aviator.”

Roy had a variety of interest. He was an avid scuba diver, hunter and photographer. Roy took hundreds of stills and thousands of feet of motion picture film. Much of this film was taken in the Cascades and Olympic mountains during his 25 years of dropping supplies for the U.S. Forest Service during the summer fire seasons.

After Roy and Margaret retired they purchased a motor home and spent much of the winters traveling the country and visiting old friends and relatives. On Dec. 7, 2001, Margaret Ann passed away.

Roy dedicated his book “Island Bush Pilot” to her, with these words: “To my wife Margaret Ann. You have been gone 4 years, my love. 56 years together, 5 children, 9 grandchildren, 2 great grandchildren, and commuter airline. I will love you forever.”

Four years ago Roy ran into an old friend name Jean Kiel. Jean and her family had lived next door to the Franklin farm in Ferndale, so Jean and Roy had literally grown up together. Jean had lost her husband a number of years before, thus a renewed friendship was born.

Roy is survived by Steve Franklin (Holly); children: Marc, Jamin, Aleesha; Susan Jarman (Bob); children: Joan, Matt, Sarah, Katie; Janet Franklin; Nancy Franklin; children: Ashia, Matias; Ken Franklin (Suzanne), children: Cole, Rhiana; and six great grandchildren.

Dad will always be remembered as a true American Patriot, an amazing pilot, fearless and highly skilled. Roy was our Hero, a natural leader and a man that had a limitless capacity for giving.

—Family of Roy Franklin

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