Ken William Emery was an early member of the FASF Board of Trustees and its official local Columbus, Historian.
The FASF has just learned that Ken died this past Wednesday, the 9th of February, at his Columbus, New Mexico home. He was 87.
Before retiring, Ken was a Cultural Resource Research Archaeologist. His avocation was US History.
Accordingly, he almost naturally spent countless hours thoroughly researching the operations of the US Army’s First Aero Squadron (FAS) during its campaign out of Columbus – and of its 11 young pilots’ lives.
By the time he had completed his studies, it was if Ken had become one of their closest friends, insofar as he knew so much detail about each of their lives . . . both in and out of the Army Signal Corps’ Air Service.
After retiring from Archeology, Ken and his wife, Sheila, regularly spent their summers living full-time in the Arizona wilderness near the old mining town of Globe, where they spent each day of the fire season manning a fire watch-tower in the Tonto National Forest for the USDA’s Forest Service. The couple had met while fellow undergraduate students at New Hampshire’s Plymouth State University. They also lived and worked in Syracuse, NY.
Sheila’s mother, Marjorie Thompson, had been an early American aviation pioneer and was a professional flight instructor before and during WWII. Sheila passed away in 2020.
Ken was always actively volunteering and helping in Columbus Village affairs and served on the Village Historic Preservation Commission. In addition to contributing articles to the First Aero Squadron’s early newsletter, the AERODROME, Ken also wrote stories for the New Mexico Desert Exposure monthly publication. Ken had completed all his post-graduate work in Archeology and only needed his oral exam to obtain his Ph.D. However, and typical of Ken, his love of the outdoors was so great, that instead of becoming a full-time academic, he chose to work for the US Forest Service.
The following is most of the surviving video (15 min) clip of Ken addressing the October 2014 Annual Convention of the League of WWI Aviation Historians at Monterrey, CA in which he described the exploits of the small handful of early US Army aviators that manned the indomitable Curtiss Jenny biplanes in a combat enterprise that lead directly to the development of the world’s greatest Airpower some 30 years later, during WWII.
Ken is survived by four grown children: Peter Emery of Farmington, NM; Holly Emery of San Jose, CA; Sasha Duffy of Santa FE, NM; and Andrew “Drew” Emery of Roslyn, WA. Ken and Sheila had 7 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren.
*Photo courtesy of long-time FASF member, FASF Photographer, Dave Clemmer.
The below video clip is 15 minutes long. It shows Ken addressing the Annual Convention of the League of WWI Aviation Historians in Monterrey CA in 2009.