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We’ve Lost A Treasure

If anyone ever deserved to be referred to as “Mister,” it was A. Paul Vance. He was respected in so many fields of endeavor. Still, he insisted on being called “Paul.”

Before his death March 4, 2012, Paul packed more living into 92 years, than anyone would think possible.

Apostle Paul Vance was born July 22, 1919 in Zalma, Missouri, the son of Ben and Adelia Vance.

In 1942, Paul graduated from SEMO with a degree in education. At the same time, he also had his commercial pilot’s license and a commission in the Navy. Paul served as a Flight Instructor and Naval Air Transport Pilot in World War II. He retired 24 years later from the Naval reserve achieving the rank of Commander.

In 1965, Paul and his wife, Sue, moved to Madison County and established the Flying V Ranch along the Castor River. The couple had five children, and Paul was survived by a total of 32 (now 33) grandchildren and great grandchildren.

After moving here, Paul continued to stay involved in St. Louis, where he had become a civic leader. He was also considered an aviation industry authority, nationally.

After Paul’s retirement in 1970, the Vance family founded Aviation Fluid Supplies, Filtration Systems Products, Fire Safety Products, Main Street Productions, and TBM, Inc. Those companies employ more than 100 people, including more than 50 in Madison County.

There is not enough time and space to recount all of the hard work, financial support, and time Paul dedicated to Madison County. He served on several local governing and advisory boards.

In the 1980s, Paul was instrumental in the resurgence of the Chamber of Commerce. He provided office space and continued to support the Chamber for years.

Paul stopped flying, commercially, in 1975 after logging 23,000 hours in the air.

In 1988, Paul worked with the Trail of Tears Commemorative, the wagon train which commemorated the forced relocation of more than 13,000 Native Americans by foot and wagon from North Carolina to Oklahoma. Paul provided the official Missouri wagon, pulled by his mules the entire 1,084 miles.

Paul’s collection of photos and memorabilia showed his close association with political and business leaders, as well as nearly every important figure in aviation and flight. Paul not only admired and collected autographs and other items from these people, he knew many of them–from Charles Lindbergh to the Mercury astronauts–personally.

Paul’s passion for aviation history led to the purchase of the Fredericktown Depot, which was converted into the Vance Aviation Museum.

Fredericktown’s mayor and city council chose to honor Paul for his lifelong dedication to aviation and philanthropy by renaming the municipal airport the A. Paul Vance Fredericktown Regional Airport.

For everything he has done, Paul has received innumerable local, regional, and national awards.

I knew Paul for less than a third of his 92 rich years. What struck me most was, from the first time we met, he seemed like a friend. When he spoke, people listened out of respect, but they also listened because he had interesting things to say on so many different subjects. He had a fantastic memory, a wry sense of humor, and a wonderful ability to tell a story. I could go a month or more without seeing him, and then run into him somewhere, and we (he) could talk for 45 minutes or more.

The first thing out of his mouth, without fail, was: “How’s Jane? What’s Morgan been up to? How old is Max, now?” Never a generic “how’s the family?” He asked about them by name. That impressed me more than anything. Here was a man who had more information, on more varied subjects, stored in his head than I care to dream about. Yet, he always asked about my family members specifically.

I’m just sayin’…You will be missed Mr. Vance.

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