James (Jim) Robert Davidson flew west on May 9, 2023. Jim was born in Kansas City, Kansas on December 3, 1930 to Dr. Oscar W and Helen Marsh Davidson. Although he lived in KCK during his youth, he also spent many happy days with relatives on their farms in Abilene, Niles and Solomon, Kansas, where he especially loved flying crop-dusters. He attended Wyandotte High School where he played football and baseball along with playing in the band and singing in the choir. It was also here that he started dating Emelie Proudfit Trickett who would become the love of his life. Jim was a pre-med student at the University of Kansas and was a member of Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity where he served as Rush Chairman. Following his KU years, he enlisted in the US Navy as a junior officer, deciding “I’d rather fly in to Korea than walk in”. Jim proudly served on the USS Midway as a fighter pilot during the Korean War, and then an additional tour of active duty took him, along with his wife and children to Pearl Harbor/Barber’s Point, Hawaii where he served as the Personal Pilot to the Navy’s Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific. As a member of the Navy Cadet Choir, he sang on the Ed Sullivan show and overseas, including an audience with Queen Elizabeth. Upon completion of his Navy career as a Commander, he served for 25 years with the Naval Reserves out of the Olathe and Richards-Gebaur Air Force bases, retiring as the Commanding Officer of a C-118 Transport Squadron. He then had a 33-year career as a TWA Captain and Flight Instructor, ending his time flying international routes on 747s – a far cry from his crop-dusting years in central Kansas and flying a Hellcat off the deck of a Naval carrier ship. During his TWA years, he was also proud to be the face of all TWA pilots in the airline’s national ad campaigns, as well as being named Captain of the Year in 1981.
When Jim wasn’t flying, he loved to spend time golfing, fishing, attending KU basketball games and showing Quarter Horses with his family. He served as President of Milburn Country Club, Saddle & Sirloin Club of KC and the Northeast Kansas Quarter Horse Assn. He also served on the Board of Governors for the American Royal. He loved his years of trail rides with his S & S friends, Saturday lunches with his Veteran buddies at the American Legion and his regular dinners with the Quiet Birdmen group. Later in life, he enjoyed reconnecting with high school, fraternity and aviator friends and made many new friends at Tallgrass Creek Senior Living Community. The family would like to express their heartfelt thanks to the wonderful staff at Tallgrass in both the Independent Living and Continuing Care facilities. The VNA Hospice staff provided him with special care and comfort in his last days.
Jim is survived by his daughter, Jan Helfer (Tim), son, Dalton (Sue), sister Nancy Wolf, as well as five grandchildren -Emelie, Jay, Graham (Tim), Trishia (Mac) and Matthew (Jaime) and five great-grandchildren. His loving wife of 67 years, Emelie, predeceased him, passing away in 2019. He survived his four-legged companion, Louie, as well as his sister, Rebecca Bolfeta. Although Jim loved this quote – “The average Navy pilot, despite the sometimes swaggering exterior, is very much capable of such feelings as love, affection, intimacy and caring. These feelings just don’t involve anyone else.” – it didn’t apply to him. He was the sweetest man and a great father, husband and friend. His attempt to take over the role of “the funny one” upon the death of his wife will be missed as well! But for now, “Good job, Jim!” and anchors aweigh.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions to American Legion Post # 370, 7500 West 75th St, Overland Park, KS, 66204 or the charity of your choice.
Jim donated his body to The Willed Body Program at The University of Kansas School of Medicine to be used for anatomical educational purposes and medical research. His cremains will be buried later at Highland Park Cemetery, Kansas City, KS alongside those of his wife.
A Celebration of Life reception will be held on Saturday, July 15th from 1 – 3pm at the American Legion Post #370, Club Room, North Entrance, 7500 West 75th St, Overland Park, Kansas.