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Community mourns loss of Ron Alexander

Pike County citizens – especially those in the avaition community – were devastated to hear that Ron Alexander, founder of Peach State Airport and Candler Field Museum in Williamson, died in a plane crash Thursday, Nov. 17. He was flying his 1917 Curtis Jenny biplane, a WWI aircraft, when the engine caught fire on takeoff at around 5:30 p.m. He was taking FAA official Larry Enlow for a flight after an inspection on the museum’s DC-3 aircraft. He attempted to land the damaged plane, but neither man survived. Enlow was an FAA antique airplane examiner. There are only five other flying Curtis Jenny’s exisiting in the world. ’This is such a great loss for our community. He brought so much to the community and always gave back so much more,’ ‘ said former Chamber leader Christy Hammons. ‘You could always count on him. Thank you Ron for all that you have done for Pike County and for the young pilots in our community. Here’s to those who will continue living out your legacy and bringing all of your dreams for Candler Field to action.’ After taking his first airplane ride at age 14 as a member of the Civil Air Patrol – one of the aviation groups that meets at Candler Field Museum – he earned his private pilot’s license at age 17. Alexander logged more than 24,000 hours flying during his lifetime, having served in the U.S. Air Force flying planes all over the world. He also flew for a year in Vietnam where he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and two Air Medals. He later worked for Delta Airlines and retired in 2002 after 34 years. He founded Alexander Aeroplane Company in 1979 and restored many antique aircraft over the years. In 2004, he founded Candler Field Museum and in 2008, the first building was completed. His vision was to recreate Candler Field (now Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport) as it was during the early days of aviation in the 1930s. The American Airways hangar was finished in 2008, the Doug Davis hangar, honoring a local aviation icon, was finished in 2016 and work is now underway on the Beeler Blevins hangar. Ron was inducted into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame in 2013. He was known to many in the nation as the ‘˜quiet giant’ of aviation. In 2013, he also founded Candler Field’s Youth Aviation Program where youth learn to work on airplanes and earn flight training hours for their efforts. Three members of the group have already earned their private pilot’s licenses. Youth program member Douglas Dunn said he began his relationship with Alexander doing odd jobs around the museum and the airfield. ’I honestly can’t remember a single time that he took my work for granted,’ said Dunn. ‘He always made sure I had everything I needed. And more than once, he came out and gave me a hand, even with the mopping. Ron may have been the big boss, but there wasn’t a single task he considered below him ‘¦ he made an enormously positive impact on my life.’ He regularly flew to airfields around the country in a restored Douglas DC-3 and gave rides to passengers young and old so they could experience the joy of aviation. He is survived by his wife, Regina Alexander; daughter, Julia Alexander and her husband Eric Lund, and their son, Alexander; daughter, Jane Smith and her husband Rod Smith, and their children, Luke and Grace.

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