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» Smilin' Jack   » Specific Airline Discussions   » TWA   » Capt. Rudy Truesdale Flies West

Author Topic: Capt. Rudy Truesdale Flies West
Post Captain
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Capt. Harold W. "Rudy" Truesdale
Born April 21, 1906 San Luis Obispo, CA and died on July 7, 2009 in Eureka, CA at age 103.

Our dear friend Rudy was, quite literally, the amazing young man in the flying machine! Rudy took his first flight as a teenager with a barnstormer who was selling airplane rides for $5.00, a lot of money for a college freshman in the mid 1920’s; that ride changed his life.

In 1924, Rudy graduated from Cal Poly (at that time a high school), attended one semester at UCLA and needing money, worked as a surveyor for the relatively new PG&E. He then attended one semester at Cal Poly (this time as a college student) in 1927.

On April 1, 1928 he signed on with the USGS aboard the USS Surveyor, and sailed to the vicinity of Seward, Alaska to make the 1st survey of the coast and adjoining waters to 80 miles on each side of Seward. He signed off the ship in late October of 1928 bought a used Harley Davidson motorcycle and drove it home from Seattle to San Luis Obispo.

On 11/4/28 at the age of 22, Rudy voted for Herbert Hoover, and in the following September he entered Hancock Foundation College of Aeronautics - a military academy of flying. He graduated 9/8/30 with a Transport Pilots License and one year of college credits. He "barnstormed" for a time and found work as an aerial photographer for Randolph Hearst during the construction of his "Castle" on the California coast.

In 1932, Rudy received a commission in the Marine Corps Reserve Base and in July of 1934, he reported to Naval Air Station, San Diego, CA for one year of active duty. He was assigned to the Red Devil Squadron, flying a Boeing F4B4 single engine biplane fighter. In December, he flew his fighter in the making of the movie, "Devil Dogs of the Air", starring James Cagney and Pat O’Brien.

On April 20, 1935 Rudy became "carrier qualified" and flew aboard the USS Langley the first time airplanes flew off carriers. The Langley was converted from the Jupiter, a coal carrier, and was the first US Carrier.

At this time, the entire US Navy was performing "Fleet Problem 16", a huge military exercise involving the entire US fleet and naval air corps in the Pacific. Rudy flew antisubmarine patrol off the Langley to Pearl Harbor. The ships then cruised to their various bases and Rudy flew ashore at San Diego. Rudy was proud to have flown in a 225 plane formation over the San Diego Worlds Fair. When asked if he ever got scared flying off of a carrier he’d tell you "only when you lost sight of it in the fog!"

On July 22, 1935, he made his first flight as a copilot with TWA and in September of 1937, he met Eureka nurse Dorothy Newton on her first flight as an Airline Hostess aboard a DC2. In December 1938, he checked out as Captain on DC2’s and DC3’s.

Rudy and Dorothy were married on March 24, 1940 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Cathedral in Evanston, IL. The following day they departed for Chicago as Captain and Hostess, landing in Pittsburgh and LaGuardia and spent their 2nd married night at the Plaza Hotel in NYC. They were married for 60 years before Dorothy died in 2000.

TWA headquartered in Kansas City and in early 1940, they drove to Kansas City. Dorothy no longer a hostess (back then you couldn’t be married and be a flight attendant). They purchased their first home and a couple of horses before moving to a new home in North Hollywood, CA in 1943.

In 1950 Rudy started flying Lockheed Constellations ("Connies") and in 1952 they moved to the Burlingame Hills overlooking his new home field at SFO. In 1954, they built a house on 40 acres just north of Santa Rosa and raised a herd of registered Angus and in 1959, Rudy bid to fly International out of New York City. He got the bid and commuted from San Francisco to fly the North Atlantic route to Europe, Egypt, the Middle East, India and Bangkok. Ah, the stories he told.

In 1964, Rudy took a slightly early retirement rather than spend his final few months of his career flying the TWA’s newly purchased jets. Rudy and Dorothy had and purchased 240 acres near Burney, CA in 1963 where he and Dorothy raised registered Angus cattle. In 1985 they moved to Eureka to be near Dorothy’s mother and sister. During their 60 years of marriage Rudy and Dorothy visited 54 countries on vacation!

In August of 2005 at the age 99, Rudy proudly received the Diamond Grand Jubilee Pin awarded for 75 years as a Mason.

We were fortunate to have known Rudy and Dorothy for more than 20 years. While his body and eyesight failed him in the past few years, his mind and memory remained razor sharp until the final few hours of his life. What remarkable stories he could tell; what wondrous things he saw from horseback, buggy, flivver, bi-plane and airplanes of all descriptions!

Rudy was fortunate to have some very special caregivers whom we’d especially like to thank ... , and especially Bev Fiala who gave so much of herself to both Rudy and Dorothy over the past 10 years as their team leader! *Karen Olson, Lupe Casarez, Stephanie Richter, Diana Fisher, Bernadette Pino, Burrill Catanach, Darlene Whelihan, Diana Singleton and Sunnie Gonzalez Thanks, ladies!

Rudy and Dorothy never had children of their own so they "adopted" their nephews and treated them as their children. Both Rudy and Dorothy were great believers in education and have created special educational trusts for their great nieces and nephews. They often said that an education is the one thing that can never be taken away or lost. Rudy will be missed terribly but he and Dorothy will live on in the lives and education of his great-nieces and nephews.

Rudy was predeceased by his parents *Harold and Alice and all three of his siblings, sisters Gertrude Haley, Margaret Nelson and Bobbie Truesdale. He is survived by his nephews James Barry and James Haley, Dale and David Nelson and Richard Whiting.

Posts: 1634 | From: Hampton, NH  |  IP: Logged
Post Captain
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When I first read this obit I was stunned. It reads like Hollywood script! I am so happy that the details of his 103 years will be shared with his brothers in flight.

Rest In Peace, Captain Truesdale.

Posts: 1634 | From: Hampton, NH  |  IP: Logged
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A captain in every sense of the word. Just like many of the TWA captains I have flown with.

Chris AA FUR

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Great Story about the life of a REAL pilot. Thanks for posting Paul.
Posts: 14 | From: Cedar Park, TX  |  IP: Logged

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