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1929 Charles 2023

Charles W. Henninger

September 15, 1929 — January 23, 2023

Charles Wesley Henninger Jr. , age 93, passed away peacefully at his home in Walnut Creek, California, on January 23, 2023. Charles was born in Vandalia, Illinois, to Charles Sr. and Ona Mae. He graduated from Vandalia High School in 1947 and attended Greenville College for two years. Charles was one of the lucky ones who made a career of his lifelong passion - flying. As a young boy, Charles made planes of wood that flew on gas engines tethered to strings. As a teenager he worked at the local airport tending planes and learning all he could about flying. He was the youngest person in Illinois to earn a private pilot’s license, a few months before he had a driver’s license. At 20, he made the front pages of the Vandalia Union newspaper by making aviation history where he was awarded his commercial pilot’s rating and instructor’s license on the same day. While in flight school, Charles met the love of his life, Ila Sue Billingsley, at a dance in Greenville, Miss. They married in March of 1953 and started their married lives in Savannah, Georgia where Charles was a pilot in the United States Air Force (USAF). They shared sixty-eight years of marriage together raising three children. As an Air Force family, they lived in many homes throughout the United States, as well as, the Philippines.

He honorably served our country for over twenty-four years, earning numerous recognitions and medals related to his service as a pilot and military leader. As a USAF pilot, he flew KC 135’s where he refueled planes in-flight. Later, he was certified as a pilot for the Lockheed C-141, a strategic military air transport plane where he flew missions all over the world. In his leadership roles, he served as the senior officer for the Military Command Center in the Philippines, the Base Commander in Vietnam where he also flew several combat missions, and his final assignment was the senior officer in the MAC Military Command Center at Scott AFB. He retired from the USAF as a Lieutenant Colonel but his love of flying continued. After his military retirement, Charles received a Master’s Degree from Webster College in Missouri and pursued a career in education where he taught Aviation and other courses at the college and high school level in Elmhurst, Illinois. At this time, he created a non-profit Aero Club where he served as principal instructor allowing his college and high school students, as well as others in the community, to log the necessary hours to obtain a pilot’s license. In his career, he logged tens of thousands of hours in the pilot’s seat. Charles eventually retired from flying and moved to California in 1997 where he enjoyed his remaining years with his family and grandchildren. He loved his family very much. Charles remained a devoted husband to Ila Sue who passed away in December 2022. Charles will rest with his wife in Verona Cemetery in Verona, Miss.

Charles is survived by his children: Sam, Nancy (Craig), and Tom; grandchildren, Crystal (Joe), Eva
(Franco), Sam, Tracy (David), Emily (Julian), Hannah, and Haley; and great-grandchildren, Anthony,
Mia, Enzo, Mia, KImiko-Irie, and Quin.

A small private family gathering and graveside service with full military honors will be held to honor Charles' memory.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in his memory to a favorite charity of the donor.

Expressions of sympathy and fond memories may be shared at .
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Charles W. Henninger, please visit our flower store.


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