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Col. Preston S. "Pete" Parish, USMC, Retired

Preston S. Parish


Col. Preston S. "Pete" Parish was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1919. He graduated from Williams College in 1941 and immediately reported to Officer Candidate School, U.S. Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia. Upon completion of OCS in October, 1941, he was commissioned second lieutenant. In February, 1942, having completed Reserve Officer School, he was assigned to the First Marine Division at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, and assumed command of a machine gun platoon in the Fifth Regiment's heavy weapons company.

In May, 1942 Parish shipped overseas with the Seventh Regiment to British Samoa en route to Guadalcanal, New Britain and Peleliu. He was awarded the Bronze Star with the citation: "For heroic and meritorious achievement in action against enemy forces while serving as company commander in a Marine infantry battalion on PELEIU ISLAND, PALAU GROUP. Captain Parish's unusual skill in combat, his leadership, personal courage, and initiative were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."

After returning to the United States in November, 1944, Parish applied and was accepted for Naval Flight Training. He was just eight flights short of completing training when the war ended and he returned to civilian life without being awarded his wings. In honor of his many years of support for Naval Aviation, the Navy awarded him Naval Aviator Wings in 1984, giving him the distinction of being the student Naval Aviator who took the longest to get his wings-40 years. Parish retired from active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps as major and ultimately retired from the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve as colonel.

Following the war, Parish had a distinguished business career, ultimately serving as vice chairman of the Board of the Upjohn Company where he helped establish the Aviation Department and select the company's first airplane-a Lockheed Learstar. In 1972, Parish became a principle owner of Kal-Aero, a small fixed-base operation at the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport, which grew to 350 employees in two locations in Southwest Michigan. Kal-Aero was sold to Duncan Aviation in 1998.

In 1977, Parish co-founded the Kalamazoo Aviation History Museum, now known as the Air Zoo, with seven aircraft and a limited number of artifacts. Since then, it has continued to expand with more than 50 rare and historic aircraft, rides, attractions, exhibits and educational programming.
Parish has served as the president of Warbirds of America, trustee of the EAA Foundation and treasurer and chairman of the National Business Aviation Association. In 1996, he received the Jack Driscoll Award, which is given to an individual who has devoted a significant amount of time and effort on behalf of the business aviation community.

Parish holds commercial, instrument, and airline transport ratings with type ratings in the Ford Tri-Motor, DC-3 and three different models of Cessna Citation jets. He holds an FAA Letter of Authorization to fly all types of high-performance piston engine aircraft and low level Aerobatic Performance Authorization for warbirds. Among other aircraft, he has flown the Wildcat, Hellcat, Mustang, Corsair, Tigercat, Bearcat, Thunderbolt, Texan, Stearman, Airacobra, Warhawk and Grasshopper. In total, Parish has 9,500 hours of pilot time.

Col. Preston S. Parish was enshrined in the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame on May 19, 2012.

Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program