David Woodburn Henley

Posted: Thursday, April 28, 2011

Longtime Alaskan David Woodburn Henley, 90, died Dec. 6, 2010, in Apache Junction, Ariz., of natural causes.

Mr. Henley was born July 11, 1920, in Belle Fourche, S.D. He left home at a very young age to become a cowboy in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. On an April day, on a ranch in Boulder, Utah, he met Shirley H. Jepsen. They married in Flagstaff, Ariz., in June 1940.

That year, David joined the Army. He was stationed in England with the 353th Squadron, 354th Fighter Group as a P-51 pilot. After 23 missions, he was shot down and spent the next year in a German prisoner of war camp. David was liberated in April 1945 and returned to the United States of America. In some ways, this flying experience may have been David's most important for his dedication as a patriot and pilot. However, those 23 missions were hardly his last loyalty and skilled finesse in the aviation industry. He was an accomplished, capable, and skilled Alaska bush pilot.

After David was released from the Army, he traveled to Alaska in April 1946. Shirley and their daughter, Patricia, arrived on June 6, 1946. Thus, began this family's Alaska adventure, an adventure that cannot be duplicated, reproduced or copied.

David, Shirley and Patricia homesteaded 160 acres four miles north of Kenai the winter of 1946-1947. The Henley family owned and operated the Flying H Ranch at Kalsin Bay on Kodiak Island.

David possessed a cowboy's philosophy. A handshake meant more than a written contract. He did not talk much and adhered to the importance of the viewpoint that "lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier'n puttin' it back" and "never miss a good chance to shut up."

In 1963 the Henleys sold the ranch. David continued to fly.

He died peacefully. He lived an adventurous, unique, exceptional, respectable and distinctive life.

He is survived by his daughter, Patricia Jean Henley; and his sons, David Michael Henley and Troy Christian Henley. Other family members survive him in Alaska, Washington and Arizona.

David was cremated and his ashes buried in Southern Utah.

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