Born in Chicago in February 1913, Colonel (USAF ret) Oliver “Ollie” Cellini slipped the bonds of this earth on September 12, 2020 at age 107 and reached out to touch the face of God.
Ollie is survived by his daughter Linda, his grandson Darren Tucker (Dian), granddaughter Kimberley Hamel (Joe) and four great granddaughters, Shelby and Rylee Jurich, Kendyll and Arley Tucker. He is also survived by step-granddaughters Jessi Smith and Jamie Cameron.
He was preceded in death by his devoted wife of 58 years Bernice and his daughters, Donna and Beverly Cellini.
Ollie embraced life and lived it to the fullest. He bought his first gun at age 9 and following in his father’s footsteps became an expert marksman. He was a Hall of Fame wrestler in both high school and college, was on the Indiana University NCAA championship team, was a champion in his weight class and was invited to wrestle in the 1936 Olympics, which he was unable to accept.
He served in the military for 32 years beginning in the Army before transitioning to the Army Air Corps flying school in San Antonio, TX in 1938. Ollie fell in love with aircraft while in grammar school in Chicago. He looked out his classroom window and watched planes coming and going from a grass field that later became Midway Airport. Ollie remained in the military pilot’s seat until his retirement in 1968. After retirement he continued in the civilian pilot’s seat flying charters. He then had a successful career in real estate before once again retiring.
Over the course of 30 years he flew 60 different types of aircraft, most of them pursuit planes and high-performance fighters. He was a commander of 5 fighter groups and was a Wing Commander 3 times.
He served 18 months during WWII in China under the command of General Chennault with the 14th Air Force Flying Tigers after they were assimilated into the US military. Colonel Cellini was commander of the only squadrons of P-47s under Chennault’s command.
Ollie also served 18 months in Korea as commander of the 51st fighter wing flying F-80s.
He was highly decorated receiving the Legion of Merit 4 times, the Distinguished Flying Cross 3 times, the Air Medal 6 times and numerous other lesser medals that he said were awarded if you were still breathing.
He was the inaugural commander of the 551st Air Early Warning Wing flying the C-121 Super Constellation. It was the only time in his career that he was not flying a fighter plane.
Ollie was also an avid outdoorsman. He loved to hunt, fish, shoot skeet and to play golf. He was an outstanding marksman and taught his daughters and grandson how to shoot. He and Donna competed successfully in many military and civilian skeet competitions. He taught daughter Linda how to fly and they spent many hours together in small planes.
Ollie was a devoted family man and was proud of his daughters and grandchildren.
The military achievement of which he was most proud is that he never lost a wingman.
Services for Colonel Cellini will be at the Shrine of Remembrance on November 16th at 11:00. Inurnment will be at Pikes Peak National Cemetery the next day, November 17th, also at 11:00.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made to Falcon Flight 11 Scholarship Fund, International Order of Daedalians, P.O. Box 63234, Colorado Springs, CO 80962.