LeRoy Fred "Lee" Florence earned his new wings and Went West on September 16, 2013, his 93rd birthday.
He was born in Kansas City in 1920, the only child of Albert Fred Florence and Loise M. Brown. He grew up in the Northeast area, graduating from Northeast High School in 1937. He enjoyed his years in Boy Scouts, DeMolay, and ROTC (and fun at Blender’s). He continued his education at KC Junior College and MU.
After Pearl Harbor, Lee enlisted in the Army and took his love of airplanes and flying to the Air Corps. In the midst of training he met Martha Hart at a picnic in Champaign, IL and they married in 1943. Lee earned his pilot’s wings and they moved around the Great Plains and the Southwest to various airfields as he learned to fly the new B-29 heavy bomber.
In November 1944 he was assigned to the 20th Air Corps, 73rd Bomb Wing, 499th BG, 878th Squadron, and left Salina, KS, flying to Saipan where he flew 35 missions to Japan and was awarded The Distinguished Flying Cross and five Air Medals. After his return in 1945 he went to work, as did all the Greatest Generation.
He worked for Truog-Nichols before helping start Executive Aircraft at the downtown airport. He then worked until he was 70 as an electronics components manufacturers’ rep. The family lived in Lee’s Summit until 1965, then moved to the Brookside neighborhood.
Lee and Martha enjoyed golf at Indian Hills Country Club and he later played Seniors golf. He kept his love of flying alive as a Quiet Birdman and with activities of the Commemorative Air Force.
He was a member of the VFW and American Legion. Lee was a great father and Gramps, always willing to help family and friends, could fix just about anything, and was a great raconteur and joke-teller.
His wife Martha preceded him in death in 2008.
He is survived by his daughter, Dinah Henderson, of the home, and grandsons Jason Henderson and family, Olympia, WA, and Daniel Henderson, Centralia, WA, as well as Tortie the cat. Graveside services were held at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, October 12, at Mt. Moriah Cemetery South, 10507 Holmes Rd. Memorial contributions may be made to Wayside Waifs. Mt Moriah & Freeman Funeral Home. 10507 Holmes Rd., Kansas City, MO 64131. (816) 942-2004 www.mtmoriah-freeman.com