Joseph Aloysius “Joe” Guthrie Jr., colonel, U.S. Air Force (retired), aka “Big Daddy” by his troops and fellow pilots.

Joe made his last flight Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013. He died peacefully in his home in the Ninemile Valley near Missoula. He was known by friend and foe as a man of honor, a man who made the tough calls, a gruff man with a sense of humor and an ironclad sense of duty, and he was a great storyteller.

Joe was born March 24, 1926, in Pittsburgh to Joseph Aloysius Guthrie and Margaret Hommel Guthrie. In 1940, his family moved to Cincinnati, where he attended Elder High School. He was an honor student all four years and earned letters in football, basketball and track. After graduation in 1944, he received an appointment to West Point. The appointment was for the 1945 class. In the meantime, he accepted a football scholarship to Indiana University. (While at West Point, he played football on the plebe and “B” squad teams with daily scrimmages against the great Blanchard-Davis teams of that era.)

Joe graduated from West Point in 1949 and was commissioned in the infantry, which was not his service of choice. He wanted to be in the newly formed (1947) Air Force. A week after graduation, Joe wrote a request for transfer and walked it through the Pentagon. The request was turned down. Joe’s classmate Doug Bush also suffered the same fate. Bush, who was a veteran of World War II and knew how to get things done, talked his way into Gen. Omar Bradley’s quarters one evening and convinced the general to transfer him, Joe and four others to the Air Force.

Thus began Joe’s 28-year career in the Air Force. He flew as a forward air controller during the Korean War and piloted classified reconnaissance missions during the Cold War. During the Vietnam War he was assigned to Udorn Air Base in Thailand as squadron commander of the 602nd Fighter Squadron flying A-1Es for close air support, forward air control and escort for Jolly Green rescue helicopters. Following his tour in Vietnam, he was assigned as chief of test for the C-5A transport aircraft. From 1972 to 1975, Joe was commandant of the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base. Then he was assigned as the Air Force Flight Test Center’s deputy commander for operations (test wing commander) until his retirement in 1977.

He continued his career as a test pilot and director of flight operations for the next 14 years, first for American Jet Industries (now Gulfstream American) and Tracor Flight Systems.

In 1991, he moved to Montana. He continued to work part time for Flight Systems in the ’90s and flew light planes locally. He enjoyed taking his neighbors flying and especially giving young folks their first ride in a light plane.

Joe was a fellow and past president of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, and a member of the Montana Pilots Association, the Helena Hangar of Quiet Birdmen and other military and aviation organizations.

Joe is survived by his wife, Carol (Red); his son, Michael Guthrie; his daughter, Karen Guthrie; his stepsons, F.M. Wade and Clifton Wade; and grandchildren, Tyler Guthrie, Erin Guthrie, Stephan Scaff, Jessica Sisson, Zachari Sisson and Eric Esquivel. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Mary Ann McKenna Guthrie; his daughter, Kimberly Ann Werner; and stepdaughter, Linda Colleen Sisson.