KeeseCapt Orville Henderson Keese, 36, died 30 June 1976 in a helicopter crash on a mountain north of Anchorage, Alaska. Orville was the pilot of the HB47 Ranger owned by Era Helicopters of Anchorage. 

Orville Henderson Keese was born near Ingram, Texas on May 9, 1940, to the late Cicero Howell Keese and Stella Lucinda “Honey” Henderson.

He was reared in the Medina community and graduated from Medina High School in 1958. He attended Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, and in 1959 volunteered for service in the U. S. Air Force, where he had a long and distinguished career.

He was married to Judy LeStourgeon on May 14, 1960. They had three children: Donald Owen, Bryan Keith, and Dana Kathleen. Judy died of cancer in 2004.

He completed basic training at Lackland AFB and then was sent to Technical School at Kessler AFB in Biloxi, MS. From there he was sent to Travis AFB CA. While there, as Airman First Class, he was selected a candidate for Office Candidate School. He was then sent back to Lackland AFB where he graduated and received his Second Lieutenant commission. From there he was sent to Stead AFB NV  and completed his helicopter training. At Fort Walton Beach, Florida he was trained for NASA Capsule Recovery. While stationed there, he volunteered to go to Viet Nam. He served in Viet Nam and Thailand in Air Rescue and Recovery. When he returned, he was given a choice of stations and chose Alaska. He was then sent to Eielson AFB at Fairbanks. By the time his tour of duty was completed, he had been in the service nine years and had the rank of Captain. He was released from service August 6, 1968.

He and his family then bought a home in Anchorage, Alaska, where they still resided at the time of his tragic death.

Since his separation from the service, he had flown for Era Helicopters all over the state of Alaska.

Bryan was only 13 years old when his dad’s Jet Ranger crashed in the vicinity of Sheep Mountain in Alaska. Bryan says, “He was a very good father; I flew with him as a pre-teen with Era helicopters from Kenia out to the oil rig platforms in Cook Inlet.”

Orville’s two sons followed in his footsteps and made careers out of military service.  Don is a retired AF Colonel who served as a navigator on C-130s. Bryan is a retired CW4 pilot who flew UH-1s and UH-60s. Both have been deployed to the Middle East and served our country just like their dad. 

From his time in Viet Nam:

 1965 – July 27; A USAF CH-3C (Call sign “Shed 85”), crewed by Capt. George C. Martin (P), Lt. Orville Keese (CP), Sgt. Curtis Pert (FE) and Sgt. Gordon C. Thayer (PJ), that had staged out of LS-36 in northern Laos, rescued F-105D pilot, Capt. Frank J. Tullo (Call sign “Dogwood 02”) after his aircraft had been hit by AAA fire and he ejected. He landed in tall elephant grass near Hoang Trung, North Vietnam, about 5 miles west of the Black River. During the rescue, the hoist failed and he was flown, dangling 70 feet below the helicopter, to a site about 1/2 mile away where they could land and get him inside. Capt. Tullo was the first pilot rescued in the Vietnam War by a CH-3C helicopter.  “Vietnam Air Losses” by Chris Hobson & “PJ’s in Vietnam” by Robert L. LaPointe

Read the story of this rescue here: