Loretta June Jones (Gudde)
Born October 1, 1931 – Passed July 6, 2021
On October 1, 1931 Loretta June Gudde was born outside of Holden, Missouri. She and her older brother Ernie were raised on a farm north of Holden to parents that believed they could do anything. During WWII she was standing outside with her father (Henry) when a P-38 flew low overhead. She looked at her dad and said “Someday I’m going to fly something like that”. He told her to go for it, and years later she did.
Loretta’s first marriage to Larry Wright gave her both a son and in 1959, her first private pilot’s license (the first of many). They loved to fly their old 65 hp Champ (The Bluebird) any time they could. They were later divorced.
In 1964 she married Garnett Gene “Jonesy” Jones. Jonesy had run the FBO’s at Max Swisher Airport in Warrensburg and at the old Heart of America airport in Kansas City. When they married, Jonesy was a pilot for Braniff Airlines and, as she describes him, an airplane addict. Jonesy would get off work and head to East Kansas City Airport in Grain Valley to give flying lessons. She decided if he was going to the airport, she was going to tag along. She convinced him to further her flying education and he did. In that first year she got her MEL, Instrument, and CFII.
Her first flying job was for John Hamilton giving passenger rides out of East Kansas City Airport. She flew people over Kansas City downtown, family farms, or whatever the occasion called for. One of the most fun jobs she had was flying the Chiefs to charity functions in the 60’s. The players called her Ma and were very protective of her. Loretta and Bobby Bell developed a deep friendship and respect for each other that continues to this day. One time when they were out of town for a function a gentleman tried to pick her up in a bar. He asked her where she was sleeping – when she told him between Buck Buchanan and Bobby Bell his eyes got big and he left. What she omitted to tell him was that they were in three separate room. She still laughs to day about the expression on his face.
Her next move was to Executive Beechcraft at the Kansas City Downtown Airport, where she was Chief Pilot and Director of Flight Operations. Mr. Meisinger (owner of Executive Beech) found out about Loretta and asked Dick Browne, Head of Operations “Why did you hire a woman?” When Executive Beech expanded their operations a few years later in St. Louis, they hired a man as the director of Flight Operations. This time Mr. Meisinger asked “Why? Couldn’t you find a woman?” While at Executive she got her FAA Check Airman Designee and was able to give check rides from Private to ATP and Tyoe Ratings in just about everything Beech made.
Throughout all of this, she was also doing wing-walking, flying air races and giving flight instruction. She started wing walking in the mid-60’s for Harold Krier (World Champion Aerobatic Pilot). Harold had taught Jonesy to fly aerobatics, which is how she met Harold. She told Harold to “Go as low as you want, just don’t get grass stains on my cap!” In 1974, Jonesy passed away in an accident while working on his seaplane rating. While she taught numerous people to fly and gave that many check rides to, perhaps her most famous student was Kansas City native and pro-golfer, Tom Watson.
In 1994, Loretta’s achievements were recognized when she won the “Pioneer Women of Aviation” award. In 1998, she was inducted into the Women in Aviation Pioneers Hall of Fame and was further recognized that year by the Missouri House of Representatives. In 2017, she was awarded the Wright Brothers “Master Pilot “Award for her contributions to aviation.
Loretta was preceded in death by her husband, Garnett, in February of 1974. Loretta is survived by her son, Jack Wright (Lana), 3 grandchildren, Jennifer Butler (Adam), Brad Wilson (Neffie), David Wright (Dolly), 10 great-grandchildren, Eric Schweisberger; Emily, Ethan, and Julia Butler; Cole, Ben, Abby, and Tobias Wilson; Lilya and Owen Wright; and sister-in-law Jo Ann Wright.
Services will be on Saturday, July 10 at Langsford Funeral Home, Lee’s Summit, MO. Visitation starts at 10 am, service at 11:30 am.