Aviation department founder died at 93

The founding chairman of the university’s aviation technology department died Thursday in Wheaton.

Edmund DaRosa joined SIU’s staff in 1964, and is credited with pioneering the aviation technology department.

David NewMyer, chairman of the aviation technology department, said he only knew DaRosa for a year before his retirement in 1978, but his former colleague left a huge impact on the department.

NewMyer said DaRosa had the reputation of leaving on trips and returning with airplanes and airplane engines for the department’s use.

“He was quite a leader and friend for the program,” NewMyer said.

He said DaRosa got the aviation building off to an amazing start and founded it as a reputable department.

NewMyer said DaRosa had many connections and friends, including entertainer Arthur Godfrey, who had his plane repaired at the department.

DaRosa was born Oct. 16, 1918, in Portugal. He moved to the United States in 1937 and attended the Spartan School of Aeronautics in Tulsa, Okla. While at the school, he married Claire Turner, the love of his life, who died July 21.

The couple celebrated their 72nd anniversary seven days earlier.

Before his time as a teacher, DaRosa was a World War II pilot in the Army Air Corps as a member of the 87th Airdrome Squadron in the 20thAir Force — the first global air force — as a B-29 bomber. He flew missions in Guam, Tinian and Saipan.

DaRosa was a long-standing technical advisor for Wings of Hope, an organization responsible for transporting medicine, food and other supplies to remote countries. The organization was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011.

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