Joe E. Gunnels, former 1stLt. USMCR

It is with a heavy heart I must relate Joe Gunnels was killed Sunday, Sept. 3rd, in a crash of his SNJ at Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Joe was right wing in a three ship formation fly over of the holiday Rodeo at Steamboat Springs, an activity during a Classic/Antique fly in.  Ed Huber was lead and Dick Jones left wing.  They performed a split with Ed carrying on straight and Dick and Joe doing 180 degree turns away.  During the rejoin, at approximately 1,700 ft. AGL, Joe was observed in a right turn which suddenly became a snap roll to the left over the top, followed by approximately two turns nose down and then another six or so in a flat spin.  The SNJ impacted upright with zero forward airspeed in a vacant lot near a hotel, instantly killing both Joe and his back seater, CAP local Ops. Officer Dave White.  Joe's wife, Jane Gunnels, unfortunately witnessed all but the impact from the stadium stands.  After so many years in aviation we know better than to draw any conclusions until all the facts are in.

Joe went through hell in Viet Nam as a pilot with the Purple Foxes of HMM-364.  In his later years with UAL, Joe suffered the ravages of crippling arthritis and operation after operation, living daily with pain.  But no one, not even Jane, has ever heard him utter a world of complaint.  After thirty-three years with UAL, he was planning his retirement party in October.

To all former "Purple Foxes",

I wish to report that Joe Gunnels received a fine hangar memorial service on Friday, Sept. 8, at the Dick Jones Hanger at Centennial Airport.  Joe was attended to by a full Marine Honor Guard, testimonials by numerous friends, a flag presentation to his wife, Jane, a 19 aircraft warbird flyover with a T-6 missing man formation and a reception after.  Because Joe had touched so many lives attendance was estimated in excess of 700.  He will be sorely missed.

Bill Porter

Information provided by:
    Bill Porter
    Jeff Kaas, Denver Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer
    Walt Wise, former 1stLt. USMCR
    John H. Pierson, Major USMC (Ret)
    Eugene P. "Gene'o" Csuti, former Maine radio operato "Golf 28."
    Franklin A. Gulledge, Jr., Major USMC (Ret)

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