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David E. Webb dies; flew more than 250 fighter missions in Vietnam

By MIKE SIGOV | The Blade, Toledo, Ohio | Published: October 17, 2019

TOLEDO, Ohio (Tribune News Service) — David E. Webb of Maumee, an accomplished airline pilot and cigar store owner who was an Air Force combat veteran of the Vietnam War, died Sept. 24 at ProMedica Flower Hospital. He was 77.

He died of cancer, his partner, Florence Seger, said.

Mr. Webb retired in 2002 after 37 years as an airline pilot for American Airlines, where he was also an instructor at the company’s flight academy for several years and a manager of the international flight department in the late 1990s. He also co-owned the Third Street Cigar smoking lounge in Waterville from its inception around 2014 until his death.

His pilot-career highlights included flying as captain on an American Airlines charter flight that took Pope John Paul II from Denver to Rome in 1993 in a Boeing 767-300 extended-range twin-engine aircraft that had been adapted for the flight.

A Dallas-based flight instructor for American and an expert in international flight procedures, Mr. Webb told The Blade at the time that he was an obvious choice for the crew because of his intensive involvement in flight training. Besides, he said, “I’m good at what I do.”

Mr. Webb told The Blade the day before a flight that he was taking a hand-made rosary that was crafted by his late grandfather, Charles Kowalski, to be blessed by the pontiff for Carol Kowalski — Mr. Webb’s aunt who owned the rosary.

“He was always family first,” Ms. Seger said, adding that Mr. Webb had a private audience with the Pope midflight in the first-class cabin.

“He was a bright, bright man who could really talk to anyone. ... He had so many varied interests. ... [And] he was the most honest person I’ve ever met,” she said.

Besides flying Mr. Webb’s interests included conservative politics, building airplanes and boats — he had actually built one of each — and communicating with other veteran fighter pilots, for which purpose he had created a special Facebook page, Ms. Seger said.

“‘I enjoy talking to other fighter pilots. They get me,’ he used to say,” Ms. Seger recalled.

He told The Blade he knew as early as the age of 6 that he wanted to fly, adding that it was his uncle, Eugene Kowalski, who took him on his first flight at age 16.

Mr. Webb was born April 27, 1942, in Toledo to Geraldine and Eugene Webb. In 1960 he graduated from St. Francis de Sales High School.

He later attended John Carroll University and then the University of Toledo for a total of three years until the fall of 1963, when he joined the Ohio Air National Guard and entered a pilot training program, graduating the next fall.

In 1966, Mr. Webb started flying for American Airlines out of Buffalo, which he did until his Air National Guard unit was called to active duty in January, 1968. He was eventually shipped to Vietnam, where he flew more than 250 combat missions as a fighter pilot, which earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Upon his honorable discharge June 11, 1969, with the rank of captain, he resumed his employment at American.

Once retired Mr. Webb built an 80-foot houseboat in London and then navigated it through the canals of England and France, where he lived until returning to the Toledo area in 2011.

In his free time Mr. Webb enjoyed working in a welding shop in his garage and reading conservative political literature.

Along with his partner, Florence Seger, surviving are his daughter, Julie Webb; son, Peter Webb; brothers, Thomas and Allan Webb; sisters, Carol Wenberg, Anita Lamb, and Kathy Botts; and two grandchildren.

A Celebration of Life ceremony will be from 1 to 4 p.m. Oct. 27 at The Stables, 11781 Obee Rd., Whitehouse.

Arrangements are by Maison-Dardenne-Walker Funeral Home & Crematory.

The family suggests tributes to Flag City Honor Flight, Findlay.

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