Roger W. Amundson
Roger W. Amundson, age 96, of Stoughton, passed away peacefully at the Skaalen Nursing & Rehabilitation of natural causes on Tuesday June 17, 2014.
Roger was born on May 21, 1918 in Stoughton, the son of Edwin Amundson and Ada Thorsen. Ada died when Roger was three years old, leaving Roger and his sister Virgene to be raised by an aunt and uncle, Ingvald and Nora Julseth, also of Stoughton.
Roger developed a lifelong love of aviation at the age of eight after seeing barnstormers over Stoughton’s main street. He paid fifty cents for his first plane ride shorty thereafter during the community’s annual Syttende Mai celebration. He built his first aircraft, the “Puddle Jumper” for a cost of $40 with his friend Norman Teigen while still in high school. They were too young to fly the plane, so they just taxied it around town on pontoons or skis. Roger moved to Los Angeles in 1938, where he worked for Lockheed Martin and made his first solo flight in an Army Air Corp Stearman biplane. During the war Roger instructed glider pilots in Wickenburg, Arizona and airplane pilots at a base in TwentyNine Palms, California. After the war he worked as a crop duster in the southern United States before returning to Stoughton to manage the local airport, which housed a one man company called “Roger’s Flying Service.” On February 12, 1948 Roger made headlines when he landed a small plane on a frozen Lake Michigan in Chicago with his friend Don Sundby, backing up traffic on Lakeshore Drive for miles. The two were arrested at the Farm Exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, but were released to fly back to Wisconsin after the officers could find nothing to charge them with.
Roger married Barbara Pfundheller in Stoughton on March 15, 1952, followed by, not surprisingly, a 4500-mile airplane honeymoon to California and the Pacific Northwest. Roger and Barbara had two sons, Bill and Jim, and Roger went to work as a pilot for the Ossit Church Furniture Company of Janesville, where he remained for 27 years. During this time he continued to work as a flight instructor, training a whole generation of today’s local pilots. In addition, he constructed two award winning aircraft, a Whitman Tailwind and an aerobatic Steen Skybolt.
Roger was also a founder and co-owner of the Ski Line ski shop, which operated in Stoughton from 1970 into the early 80’s. In 1985, Barbara and Roger began spending their winters as snowbirds at Desert Dawn, a lively community of midwestern and Canadian expatriates in Mesa, Arizona, where they made many terrific friends. Roger continued wintering in Mesa until 2010.
Roger was a lifetime Century Club member of the Experimental Aviation Association (member #1048) and a charter member of the Madison chapter of the Quiet Birdmen.
Roger is survived by his son Bill Amundson and daughter in-law Anita James-Amundson. He was preceded in death by his wife Barbara; son, Jim; and sister, Virgene Bellin.
Funeral services will be held at 1:00pm on Saturday, June 21, 2014, at the Cress Funeral Home in Stoughton. Visitation will be from 11am to the time of the services. Friends and relatives are invited to a luncheon and ice cream social immediately following the ceremony at the main hangar of Matson Airport, directly east of Stoughton on Highway 51.
The family wishes to extend a special thank you to the staffs of Skaalen and Agrace HospiceCare, and especially to Dr. Robbins and staff in the Geriatric Psychiatry Inpatient Program of the Stoughton Hospital.
“I suppose I look back with the most pride at being able to build an airplane and fly it somewhere. You can’t believe it’s going to happen.” Roger Amundson.
Cress Funeral Service
206 W. Prospect Street
Stoughton, WI 53589
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