Richard “Dick” Peter Aley of Whitefish passed away on Sept. 2, 2017, at his home with Mary, his wife of 56 years, by his side.
Dick was born to Frederick, “Dode,” and Ella Catherine (Nichols) Aley on Dec. 16, 1938, in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Since a little boy his interest was airplanes. He designed, built and flew many model airplanes from control lines to radio control. After graduating from Bigfork High School in 1957, he took his love of airplanes to new heights and went to Northrop Institute in Inglewood, California, where in 1960 he earned an Aircraft and Powerplant License.
His first job was at Morrison Flying Field in Helena. Here not only did his love of airplanes grow, but he found a new love, Mary Dodge. They were married in Deer Lodge on Aug. 19, 1961. Their honeymoon started their life-long adventure with a road trip to California where Dick was going to school. In 1967, Dick graduated from California Polytechnic State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering and Mary graduated with a PHT degree – “Pushing Hubby Through.”
Dick joined the Boeing company in September 1967. Working with Boeing gave Dick the luxury of not only working daily with the planes that he loved but also allowed him to see the world. During his 30 years with Boeing, he lived in: Seattle; Vancouver, BC; Minneapolis; Honolulu; Dallas; Tokyo, Japan; and Bangkok, Thailand. In 1993, he was named field service employee of the year. For Dick the best part of his career with Boeing was the friends that he made. These friendships continued throughout his life and have been a source of comfort for his family after his passing.
While Dick loved working for Boeing, he also loved his life outside of Boeing. Family was especially important. Dick cherished his two daughters, Debbie and Robinette, and worked hard to share his wisdom and life lessons.
Debbie is the oldest and because of this was always elected to do projects and generally help. Dick and Mary decided that in the interest of household peace, Debbie should be his assistant. Debbie learned many life lessons — the difference between a flat head and a phillips head screwdriver, how to hang wallpaper, drive a nail and most importantly how to let loose with a colorful, creative string of expletives.
He passed on to Robinette a love of sweets, science and the manual transmission. After Dick provided an in-depth, hands-on lesson on clutch replacement, Robinette gained the ability to balance a transmission on her chest and learned the importance of not riding the clutch.
Dick’s two grandchildren, Amanda and Aaron, enjoyed many adventures with their grandfather. Amanda visited her grandparents for a few weeks while they were building their home in Whitefish. Amanda and her grandfather built a bridge over a stream on the property. This left a lasting impression on an 8- year-old girl. Aaron remembers making balsa wood model airplanes and taking them to a local park to fly them. He also got to take the controls of one of Grandpa’s radio control planes at the flying field.
Throughout his life, Dick was active in local model clubs, participated in air shows and was a lifetime member of the Academy of Model Aeronautics. One of his greatest personal achievements was working on the team that designed and built the Miss Ashley II airplane that competed in the Reno Air Races. Miss Ashley II was a highly modified P51 Mustang.
In April 1998, Dick and Mary retired to their dream home in Whitefish. They picked the home site because of the 8-acre meadow that was a perfect flying field. Dick designed the house and drew the architectural plans. At their retirement retreat, Dick hunted deer and flew model airplanes. He enjoyed working in the woods with his tractor and four-wheeler.
In September 1998, Dick was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. While this disease gradually stole his ability to move, it never stole his passion for life or his love of his family.
The family would like to thank Dick’s caregivers, especially Gary and Tim, whose compassionate care allowed Dick to stay at home until the end. Words cannot express how much their care and friendship meant to Dick, Mary, and the rest of the family.
Dick is preceded in death by his parents, Dode and Ella, and his brother Kenneth.
Dick is survived by his wife, Mary; daughter Debbie, grandson Aaron, granddaughter Amanda, and great-grandsons Chase and Leon; daughter Robinette, her husband Jim, and bonus-granddaughters Carmen and Ava; sister Sandy, and nephews Jim and Bob.
A celebration of Dick’s life will be at 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8 at Buffalo Hill Funeral Home and Crematory. Dick’s caregiver Gary, who is also a pastor, will lead the service.
In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to a charity of your choice. To send a note of condolence to the family please visit www.buffalohillfh.com. Buffalo Hill Funeral Home is caring for the family.