Leon Frank Schultz was born November 19, 1926 in Williston, ND to Fila (Morrill) and Reinhold Schultz. He was the youngest of five children. When he was very young, he saw his first airplane and it was then he decided he wanted to be a pilot.
In 1935, in the midst of The Dust Bowl, the family moved to a farm near Ross. Leon attended the one room school. The school was taught by his sister, Arnolda, Leon often commented that whenever anyone did anything wrong, it was always “Leon’s fault”. Then he’d laugh and say, “And it usually was.” When he was almost 14, he went to the Ag School in Crookston, just in time for The Armistice Day Blizzard. After Ag School, he returned to Ross and attended High School in Badger, graduating with his sister, Gladys.
In 1944, at the age of 17, Leon joined The United States Navy. He served as a Gunner’s Mate on the USS Walke, a destroyer, in the South Pacific. The Walke steamed into Tokyo Bay after VJ Day to help liberate Japan. Back in the US, Leon was stationed in Jacksonville, Florida. He was involved in a severe car crash and was given a medical discharge from the Navy.
He returned to northern Minnesota where he used the GI Bill to take flying lessons. One day, while flying, he stopped at Hallock airport and asked if there was anything he could do to earn some gas money. The man asked if he’d ever done any crop dusting, to which Leon replied, “Yes.” (He hadn’t) and a legend was born.
Leon flew for Dusty Huggins for several years before starting his own business in Roseau. While working for Dusty in Grand Forks, he met Irene Dickhausen and on September 19, 1950 they were married. Leon owned and operated North Air Flite for almost 60 years. He also managed the Roseau Airport for many years and gave numerous “first flight is always free” flights to young pilots to be. He flew for Polaris and Arctic Cat. He flew trap lines, ambulance flights, and fishing trips. He attended innumerable airshows and fly-in breakfasts. If it had to do with airplanes and flying, he was there. He even spent 7 years building an airplane in his basement.
Ever fearless, he gave flying lessons to his three older children. He would sit in the right seat, arms crossed, giving calm suggestions, then watching as they flew away on their first solos. In 2003, he flew to Kazakhstan, with his daughter, Cindy, to adopt his youngest granddaughter, Jaime. He always said that was the adventure of his life. In a life filled with adventure, that’s saying a lot.
Leon was a born storyteller and he had many stories to tell. He had a beautiful singing voice and could play almost any instrument anyone gave him. In addition to aviation, Leon loved woodworking, music, fishing, driving fast cars, playing pinochle with his friends, catching up on the local gossip at the coffee shop, good food, and his family.
Leon Schultz passed away March 16, 2014 at the age of 88 years, 4 months.
Leon was preceded in death by his parents, Reinhold and Fila Schultz; his brother, Lloyd Schultz; and sisters, Arnolda Gregerson and Joyce Thayer.
He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Irene of Roseau; sister, Gladys Novotny of Billings Montana, daughter Pam (George) Terry of Roseau; son, Greg (Sharon) Schultz of Greenbush; daughter Cindy Schultz of Austin, TX; and daughter, Lynn (Phil) Krahn of Wyoming, MN.
His six loving grandchildren, Chris (Brooke) Schultz of Elizabeth City, NC, Jeff (Brittney) Schultz of Minneapolis, MN, Erica (Luke) Harren of Littleton, CO, Chelsea (Adam) Hennek of England, Taylor Krahn of Minneapolis, and Jaime Schultz of Austin, TX; and two great grandchildren, Skyler Schultz and Carter Hennek; and special dog, Cooper.
“Did you ever know that you’re my hero?
And everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle.
For you are the wind beneath my wings.
Thank you. Thank you.
Thank God for you, the wind beneath my wings.”
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Tuesday, March 24th at 10:30 AM at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Badger. Visitation will be on Monday from 5-7 PM with a 6:30 prayer service at Helgeson Funeral Home in Roseau. Military honors by the Roseau Memorial Honor Guard.
Online guest book at: www.helgesonfuneralhome.com