We received word over the weekend that Douglas Holt of Mequon, Wis., “Flew West” on Wednesday morning, October 7th, 2015. Doug was a trustee of the Alfred & Lois Kelch Charitable Trust and a mentor and advisor to the Kelch Aviation Museum, Inc.
Many people in the aviation community knew Doug because of his book, “Lucky Dog” that chronicles his remarkable career as a young pilot over Germany in WWII and also his experiences stateside flying various aircraft for the Army Air Corps. Doug has appeared at many aviation events over the years, giving interviews, signing his book and speaking to anybody interested in his story. He willingly gave his book free to any WWII veterans.
Doug and his wife Carol were close friends of Al and Lois Kelch, and when they created Alfred & Lois Kelch Charitable Trust, Doug was one of the original trustees. Later, Doug was instrumental in using the Trust to create the Kelch Aviation Museum and very recently, has helped guide the plans for the new museum building and with long-term financial planning. Most importantly, he wanted the museum to be something that Al and Lois would be proud of. Doug has been a mentor to this curator and an inspiration to everybody involved.
Doug visited the Kelch Aviation Museum just a few weeks ago, during the MAAC Grassroots fly-in on September 12th when the Kelch Trust and Kelch Museum held a joint, annual meeting. As usual, Doug held court on a few items at the meeting and made us all laugh on occasion.
We had arranged for Doug to take a flight in our Curtiss-Wright Travel Air 12W after the meeting, since he helped Al Kelch with the restoration and mentioned more than once, “I did a lot of work on that airplane but never got a ride in it.” (or words to that affect). Greg Heckman, our director and pilot, tells the story from here.
I had the honor and privilege of giving Doug his last airplane ride during the MAAC Grassroots fly-in on September 12 in the Museum’s Curtiss-Wright Travel Air 12W. I have to admit, I was a little skeptical. Since May, when I flew the airplane for the first time, I have given many rides, and you have to be pretty limber and spry to get both in and out of the front cockpit of the 12W. I had to laugh as I watched Doug, wearing his WWII flying helmet crawl in with no difficulty at all. I’ve seen people half his age struggle getting in.
Now Doug is short, so once he was in, all I could see was the top of his flying helmet sticking out of the front cockpit. We got airborne and I flew around the area at about 500 feet, thinking he’d like to enjoy the scenery. It wasn’t long until I saw his hand come up like he was pointing at the stick, and then he grabbed the stick and shook it. I thought, OK, this should be interesting, so I shook it back, indicating he had control. Doug proceeded to make gentle S-turns, gradually getting steeper as he maneuvered around the area south of the airport. I sat there amazed as he made perfectly coordinated turns with the altitude never changing more than +/- 25 feet. Now keep in mind, there are no instruments in the front where Doug was flying! He was flying the airplane like he had never quit and it was a thrill for me to be a part of it.
Doug continued to maneuver around for about 10 minutes, and shook the stick once again to give control back to me. We went back, I landed the airplane, and Doug got out – again with no difficulty. He briefly mentioned a story while flying a Stearman as a Cadet, and then walked off to our new museum building. In my 30 years of flying, I have forgotten many of the rides I have given, but this is one I’ll never forget. Rest in peace, Doug!
Speaking to Doug on the phone just last week, one of our directors commented, “…he was still buzzin over that 12W ride and that he “still had it.”
Kelch Trustee Larry Harmacinski sends these pictures of Doug and Ilse Harmacinski at the Museum’s open house shortly before Doug’s flight. Pictured is the museum’s 1928 Stearman C3B.
Doug requested no formal ceremonies upon his death, but donations may be made to any of these organizations; MDS Foundation, Kidney Foundation or Alzheimer’s Foundation. He is survived by his wife, Carol, and two daughters.