Earle Benjamin Blomeyer learned to fly before AOPA was formed and was the last of the association’s first 250 members to make his final flight: Blomeyer died Feb. 8 in Atlanta, at age 102.
Blomeyer was the last living link to the launch of what became the largest aviation organization in the world, having joined in 1939 at the urging of a friend and fellow pilot who had just visited Wings Field near Philadelphia, where AOPA’s story had only just begun. Blomeyer became member 242, and was the star attraction at a 2014 gathering at Wings Field to celebrate the association’s seventy-fifth anniversary. Addressing that gathering, which also included all living AOPA presidents, past and present, Blomeyer declared the Beech Staggerwing his favorite airplane, and the jet engine the most significant aviation innovation he had seen during a flying career that began in the 1930s.
“There was no place on earth that he did not want to visit at least once,” Blomeyer’s family noted in the obituary. “He loved all cultures, people and animals. He will be forever missed by all who were touched by his kindness, generosity and love."
Blomeyer retired as chairman of the board of Gladwin Plastics Inc., served as secretary of the Tennessee Independent Telephone Association, and president of the Kentucky Independent Telephone Association, among other roles and memberships. He never owned an airplane, but frequently rented or borrowed from friends, logging hours in a range of aircraft including open-cockpit Fleet biplanes, along with Aeroncas and others. He soloed a Piper Cub after just eight hours and earned his private pilot certificate after 20 hours.
Blomeyer attended AOPA’s fiftieth anniversary celebration in Orlando, Florida, in 1989, learning only then that being among the first 250 pilots to join AOPA qualified him as a charter member. By 2014, he was the last survivor of this group, and AOPA made him an honorary life member, marked by a golden membership card, and a charter member’s shirt and jacket presented by AOPA President and CEO Mark Baker at the Wings Field event.
Blomeyer is survived by his wife, Stephanie Strand Blomeyer, who accompanied him to Wings Field in 2014 and recently shared news of his passing. His first wife, Frances Katherine Kelly Blomeyer, preceded him in death. A niece, brother-in-law, and several great nieces and great nephews also survive him, along with more than 300,000 fellow AOPA pilots who owe a debt to those who broke the trail.