Jan. 21, 1907 - Dec. 25, 2005
Aviation pioneer Dean Crites died Sunday, Dec. 25, 2005, at Waukesha Memorial Hospital. He was born at the Crites family homestead at Honey Creek on Jan. 21, 1907, a twin son to Joshua L. and Minerva Beers Crites.
His aviation career began in 1919 when he and his twin brother, Dale, helped another Wisconsin aviator, Robert Huggins, build a glider in their hometown. In 1929, he had his first airplane flight with Dale in their homemade clipped winged J1 Standard. It was that same year that he soloed, flying from farm fields near Mukwonago. After receiving his student flying license, he then earned a commercial license, the CAA Aircraft and Mechanics license and his flight instructor’s rating. He was also proficient in aerobatic flight, participating in many air shows in area communities.
In 1931, he and his brother started the first flight school in Waukesha - they organized the Spring City Flying Service as a weekend flight school. That service was later expanded to offer flight instruction for new pilots, maintenance of planes and rebuilding of antique aircraft. During World War II, Spring City Flying Service trained more than 1,000 pilots for combat.
Dean was the first airmail pilot in Waukesha County and was involved in the promotion of early aviation in the state by helping local communities organize and run "fly-ins" and air shows.
Crites’ flying prowess and that of his brother, Dale, earned them accolades and admirers alike. One of the enduring honors, Waukesha County Airport Crites Field was named for them by the Waukesha County Board in 1981. They received the Billy Mitchell Award in 1985 for outstanding contributions to aviation and in 1989 they were inducted into the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame at the Experimental Aircraft Association Museum in Oshkosh.
Dean was a member of the OX5 Aviation Pioneers, Civil Air Patrol, the Early Day Gasoline Engine and Tractor Association, Wisconsin Flying Farmers and the Experimental Aircraft Association, was an honorary member of the Wisconsin Antique Aircraft Association and was a lifetime member of the Waukesha Aviation Club.
He will be sadly missed by his son, Gary Garfield Crites of Milwaukee; granddaughter, Rachel Elizabeth (Tarka B. Kumal) Crites of Milwaukee; great-grandson, Josha Garfield Crites of Milwaukee; one nephew, Dale (Therese) Crites; and four nieces, Elizabeth A. Oesterlin, Barbara J. Crites, Mary Lou (Manuel) Oyervides and Margaret (Quentin "Pete") Picciolo; and other relatives and many friends. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his wife, Olive Elizabeth Pries Crites; grandson, Bryon Garfield Crites; and his twin brother, Dale B. Crites.
Visitation will be held from 10 a.m. until the 12:30 p.m. funeral service Friday, Dec. 30, at Randle-Dable Funeral Home, 1110 S. Grand Ave., Waukesha. Entombment will follow at Prairie Home Cemetery.
Memorials to the Waukesha Aviation Club, 2525 Aviation Drive, Waukesha, WI 53188, are appreciated.
For further information, call Randle-Dable Funeral Home at 547-4035 or visit online at www.randledablefuneralhome.com.