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NEWS | Dec. 20, 2012

Parr: Legendary double ace pilot laid to rest

By Alex Salinas Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs

Nearly 300 people gathered to commemorate the life of retired Col. Ralph Parr Dec. 17 at the Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Theater.

Parr, who died Dec. 7 at age 88 in New Braunfels, Texas, was the 12th Tactical Fighter Wing commander from 1970-71 and the only American pilot to receive both the Distinguished Service Cross and Air Force Cross, the Army and Air Force's highest honors behind the Medal of Honor.

Rev. Donald Somerville's spiritual message opened the memorial.

The remembrance was treated as a "celebration of life," Somerville said.

Somerville described Parr as "empathetic, kind and passionate, which allowed him to become a respected leader."

Speakers explained how Parr was a military man, friend, wingman and family man.

There is Ralph Parr, the military man, whose aerial prowess is well known.

The Korean War double ace flew 641 combat missions in three wars in four different aircraft. He retired with more than 6,000 flying hours and earned more than 60 decorations, making him one of the most distinguished aviators in American history.

Retired Col. Gary Baber, "River Rat" chapter president of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association, said Parr had a tendency to attack large formations of enemy airplanes by himself, leaving behind a piloting legacy "of courage and doing one's duty."

There is also Ralph Parr, the friend and wingman.

A member from Parr's maintenance crew during the Vietnam War recalled how the colonel would regularly chat with Airmen, disregarding rank, and how he refused to remove three bright stripes on his aircraft - which made him a visible target - because he wanted pilots to know where he was at all times; no pilots were lost under his watch.

Lastly, there is Ralph Parr, the family man.

He is survived by his wife, Margaret, three stepchildren and 12 grandchildren.

Parr's hobbies included fly fishing, golfing and watching the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Cowboys play.

"Humility and dignity coupled with a dry sense of humor made Parr an interesting person who didn't mention his accomplishments, but had a lot to say when asked," Paul McLaughlin, Parr's stepson, said.

"America needs leaders like Ralph Parr," Col. Gerald Goodfellow, 12th Flying Training Wing commander, said.

Funeral services included a T-38 Missing Man formation flyover followed by interment at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.