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Alan J. Momberger

Alan J. Momberger

No. 2000810 Sep 1932 – 20 May 2005

Died: Las Cruces, NM
Buried: Ashes held by family

ALAN JOSEPH MOMBERGER was born to Mr. and Mrs. William Momberger in Ilion, NY, a land filled with the beauty of lakes, streams, farmlands, and woods. The outdoors was an important and happy part of Alan’s youth. He loved sledding, ice skating, snow skiing, swimming, horseback riding, and golf.

When Alan was only seven, his older brother Bill joined the Army Air Corps and became a test pilot for the P-40 fighter. On routine flights from Westover Field to the Bell facility in Buffalo, NY, he would drop down over the Momberger home, rev up his engine, and waggle his wings. Alan was very proud of him and was sold on flying, which influenced the rest of his life. Though his brother flew P-47s and P-51s over Europe and was killed in combat, Alan still was determined to fly. In high school, Alan continued to enjoy the outdoors. He did so well academically that he received a full scholarship to Syracuse University’s School of Forestry. Despite his mother’s understandable concern, Alan wanted to fl y and chose the military academy closest to home, the United States Military Academy. He took the tests, had the highest scores and was appointed, entering only seven days after graduation from Ilion High School.

At West Point, he was in Company I-1, located in South Area. There he spent his three upper class years with roommates Bill Frier and Mel Remus. The trio all took Spanish, which was a big help on the language scene. They also went on several dates and weekend outings together. Alan was a fine-looking man. His roommates swear he could start walking down the street and, within a block, some attractive young lady would stop and begin speaking with him. Pursuing his love of the outdoors, Alan belonged to the Ski Club for four years and was president during his Firstie year. He was also an active member of the Dialectic Society.

True to his early love of flying, Alan selected the Air Force upon graduation. He went to Kinston, NC, for primary pilot training, passed the Link Trainer and soloed in a P-3 Piper Cub before moving on to Phase 2 in the T-6. After mastering that plane, he moved into aerobatics and navigation flights. These transitions confirmed his love of flight and required adaptations. At Greenville Air Base in Mississippi, he got into the “real” Air Force and learned to pilot jets. There, they concentrated on formation flying, aerobatics, and navigation. Finally, Alan received his treasured silver pilot wings.

During these years, Alan met Joe Lapchick, a classmate and fellow pilot who became one of his best friends. They went on golf outings and numerous trips together. In fact, Joe introduced Alan to his future wife, Evans, a model and student at Barnard College. Evans (Jean Evans Finnegan) and Alan were married in June 1956. His USMA roommate Bill Frier, also a B-25 bomber pilot, was best man.

Due to cutbacks in Air Force units and planes after the Korean War, flying positions were at a premium, and jet budgets were particularly hard hit. Still wanting to fl y, Alan pursued helicopter training. He mastered the H-13 (of MASH fame) and the H-19, a workhorse in Korea, before moving on to the H-21, a dual rotor helicopter. In 1956, not long after this training, Alan’s helicopter squadron was sent to Japan, where he and Evans lived on the economy, moved many times, and started their family with the birth of Alan Eugene. Alan’s flying future ran aground due to Evans’ strong position against assignment uncertainty and service separations while raising a family. In honor of their marriage, Alan resigned as a captain in 1958.

Though he left the Air Force, Alan never truly left the field of aviation. He served as an aeronautical engineer, project manager, and international liaison for Bendix Aviation, General Time Corporation, Lockheed Corporation, and ended his evolutionary career with Northrop Grumman Corporation. He described his own personal and professional efforts as “lots of flying— pilot and passenger— lots of happiness, tons of mistakes and errors, many successes and prideful results, intertwined with regrets and sadness.”

During these years, Alan lived all across the United States in New York City, Chicago, and Washington, DC. He also had many short-term addresses throughout southern California during long business assignments in the Middle East, South America, North Africa, Europe, and the Far East. Yet, along the way, Alan and Evans managed to have six more children: Siobhan, Evans, Hilary, Colin, Ryan, and Ian. Alan shared his great love of nature with them and taught them to appreciate recognizing what they wanted out of life and instilled in them the perseverance to pursue it.

In 1991, Alan met and married Joan Marie Alcorn. A few years later, in 1995, Alan fully retired. He and Joan explored many coasts around the world, launched countless golf balls, hiked endless trails, and eventually settled in Las Cruces, NM.

Sadly, Alan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in early 2002. True to form, he did not quit. Alan and Joan organized and did their best to spread the word and hope for fellow sufferers. They became members of the Board of Directors of the New Mexico Alzheimer’s Association, developed relevant support programs, and wrote informational articles for its newsletter. Alan joined the ghostly ranks of the Long Gray Line in May 2005, dying from unexpected complications due to Alzheimer’s disease.

As only Alan would say, “Somewhere over the rainbow, you will find me.” Any of us who knew him well would say, “Fly on my love, my friend, my brother, my father. Fly on in peace and know we are with you.”  

Wife Joan, with
Classmates Bill Frier and Mel Remus

Originally published in MAY / JUNE 2006 TAPS 

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