Search billions of records on

Merced Sun Star
Tuesday, July 19, 1988

West Coast Fly-In founder, Fleming, dead at age 67

Orvil Fleming Jr., who watched the annual Merced West Coast Antique Fly-In he started in 1958 grow from 32 airplanes and 25 spectators to national prominence with 2,000 aircraft and 25,000 viewers, died in a local hospital Monday. He was 67.

Funeral services are to be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Stratford Evans Merced Funeral Chapel.

The Rev. Ira Schultz of the Seventh-dat Adventist Church and the Rev. Clarence Duff of First Christian Church will officiate. Burial will be in Arbor Vitae Cemetery in Madera.

Mr. Fleming was recognized as the father of the Fly-In which draws antique, homebuilt and experimental aircraft from across the U.S. and Canada.

In July, the Fly-In was dedicated to Mr. Fleming and his brother, Chuck Fleming, of Canyon Country, for their roles in getting the event started.

"Orvil's camaraderie and his devotion to the Fly-In will always be remembered by the people who worked with him on the event for many years," said Gail McCullough, a former Fly-In director and publicity chairman since 1970.

"He knew the old ones so well and loved them so much. He could see a plane a long way off and immediately tell you what kind it was."

Linton Wollen, director of this year's Fly-In and a longtime worker, pointed to Mr. Fleming's dedication. "Even when Orvil was ill the last few years, he still managed to come out. He was there this year and awarded trophies at the banquet that weekend," Mr. Fleming organized the judging process, handled it for many years and always lined up other judges and supervised the judging paperwork, Wollen added. The Fly-In began when Mr. Fleming invited a few friends to fly to Merced for a get-together. Owner of two Waco aircraft, he had attended events at other cities and decided to organize it here, having failed to find a place where "I could step out of my biplane into the middle of all the fun."

At the first meeting, the Merced Waco Club was formed and it conducted the Fly-In for several years before turning it over to the Merced Pilots Association. Mr. Fleming served as general chairman while it was under the auspices of the Waco Club. Later he and his brother supervised the judging of aircraft entered from 1963 through 1985.

For years the brothers awarded the O.A. "Pop" Fleming Memorial trophy, in honor of their late father, to the Waco cabin aircraft judged best in its class at the Fly-In.

Mr. Fleming served as manager of the Bank of America branch at Castle AFB, retiring in 1980. Five years later he learned he was suffering from kidney failure and from that point underwent regular dialysis treatment.

Born Aug. 4, 1920 at Concordia, Kan., he was employed by Bank of America for 42 years, starting in Madera with the Bank of Italy as a messenger boy. During World War II he served two years in Army intelligence as a technical sergeant in Panama in 1943-45.

Fleming was past president of the Castle-Atwater Kiwanis Club and held memberships in American Legion Post 83, the Merced Odd Fellows Lodge, Merced Genealogical Society, National Rifle Association, the Merced Pilots Association and Patient Activity Committee as treasurer.

Surviving are his wife, Ruby of Merced; a son, Orvil A. Fleming III of Merced; a daughter, Susan Key Fleming of Merced, and his brother, Charles of Canyon Country.

Friends may call at the funeral home today from noon to 9 p.m. and Wednesday before the services.

Memorial contributions may be sent to PAC, Patient Activity Committee, P.O. Box 3121, Merced.