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PO Box 7, Mary Esther, FL 32569  •  850.581.0099  •

Irl Leon Franklin Takes Final Flight

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Irl “Leon” Franklin who passed away on June 11th, 2023 at his longtime home in Winnemucca NV. Leon, as he liked to be called, was 88 years old and was born in Hutchinson Kansas to Carol and Clifford Franklin.

Leon graduated from Kansas State University and later received his Master’s Degree in Education from University of Southern California (USC). He lived an exciting and fulfilling life. After finishing ROTC at Kansas State he entered the Air Force in 1956 and retired in 1979 at the rank of Lt. Col. He served in the Vietnam War as a pilot of C123’s and later C130’s. Leon’s claim to fame was the historic Son Tay raid where we tried to get our POW’s back. Although the raid was unsuccessful it did prove to influence the end of the conflict. The C130 plane Leon used in the Son Tay raid was retired and put at the gate at Cannon AFB in Clovis NM – Air Force Special Operations Command (museum).

Leon moved to Winnemucca NV in 1979 and started his second career as a Jr. High school counselor and across the street his wife Ella Mae Franklin ran the Gemini Child Care Center. Leon served Humboldt County and the State of Nevada for twenty years and retired in 1999. Leon served with distinction on the Juvenile Justice Council for the Governor of Nevada. Leon also served as chairman of the airport board for many years where he secured funding for lengthening the runways from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Leon continued to fly (his passion) when he got to Winnemucca NV. He owned a Cessna 210 (AOPA) which he flew whenever possible and held an instructor’s license – he taught a local college course on flying. Leon would fly local mine personnel to other mines on an independent basis. Leon started the Civil Air Patrol squadron in Winnemucca NV and worked with various law enforcement agencies to allow them to see things from the sky. Leon was honored with the airfield at the airport being named in his honor “Franklin Field”. Leon was also awarded the Wright Brothers Master Pilot award from the FAA for fifty years of dedicated service to flying.

Leon served his community through Lions Club International where he served in many different positions and volunteered his time. Leon installed many of the lifeline’s for the older generation in Winnemucca NV. Leon is survived by Ella Mae Franklin, his wife of 66 wonderful years and his daughter Renee Petersen and son Mark Franklin.

It is with heart felt gratitude we thank the private health care personnel that took care of Leon (and Ella Mae) over the last year.

*Services were held on June 16, 2023 at 9 am at the Winnemucca Cemetery.

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