One of Wichita’s most respected aviation historians has died.
Walt House, a board member of the Kansas Aviation Museum, a museum restoration manager and a longtime former curator and chief historian, died Saturday.
He was 86.
“As a resource in the community, he was invaluable,” said Molly McMillin, managing editor of the Weekly of Business Aviation.
Funeral services for Mr. House will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, 1321 N. Stratford Lane. A graveside service will follow at 3:30 p.m. at Burrton Cemetery in Burrton.
Mr. House was born on Feb. 5, 1931.
“Walt House was an amazing individual,” said Lon Smith, former Kansas Aviation Museum director who is now with the Museum of World Treasures.
As they became friends, House would sometimes talk with Smith about how he grew up on an oilfield between Wichita and Hutchinson and watched planes flying overhead from the Naval Air Station near Hutchinson, built during World War II.
“He and his friends would just lay in the grass and watch the Stearman Trainers fly overhead and dream of becoming a part of aviation,” Smith said.
Smith said Mr. House often would talk aviation with a neighbor who owned a bi-plane.
“One day, the gentleman asked him if he wanted to go on a plane ride,” Smith said. “Walt knew that he should ask his mom first, but he also knew she would probably say no. So he hopped in the plane and went for a ride.”
Mr. House later joined the Air Force and then worked at Boeing.
“It wasn’t so much that he knew the history of aviation, which he did,” Smith said. “But you could give Walt a part from a plane, and he would look at it and could identify it and what plane it belonged to. He was truly gifted.”
“Walt was well-liked by all, and a genuinely helpful resource on countless Wichita and Kansas aviation history and museum projects,” Richard Harris, former chairman of the Kansas aviation centennial and an aviation historian himself, wrote in an e-mail to The Eagle.
“He ... had intimate knowledge of (aviation) and many of its historic figures, some of whom he had known personally,” Harris wrote. “His importance to the preservation of Wichita and Kansas aviation history is indescribable and irreplaceable.
“His passing is our community’s loss and personally heartbreaking to me.”
In lieu of flowers, memorials have been established with the Kansas Aviation Museum, 3350 George Washington Blvd., Wichita, KS 67210, and the Kansas Humane Society, 3313 N. Hillside, Wichita, KS 67219.