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kivinen1
01-01-10, 21:05
Glenn Wesley "Wes" Lematta [originally Liimatainen ]
GLENN WESLEY "WES" LEMATTA
April 29, 1926~December 24, 2009

Wes Lematta, founder and Chairman of the Board of Columbia Helicopters, passed away on December 24, 2009 following a period of illness. A pioneer in the business of helicopter operations, he was 83.
A public viewing will take place at the Vancouver Funeral Chapel, 110 E. 12th Street, Vancouver, WA, on January 7 and 8. A private service and internment will take place on Saturday, January 9, followed by a Celebration of Life at the Vancouver, Washington, Hilton Hotel. The address for the hotel is 301 W. 6th Street, Vancouver, Washington, 98660. The Celebration of Life service will begin at 12:30 PM.
Glenn Wesley Lematta was born to Ed and Hilda Lematta on the family farm in Ellendale, North Dakota on April 29, 1926. He and his family moved west while he was still a child, settling within the Finnish community that grew up around Brush Prairie, Washington. He was preceded in death by older brothers, George Willard (Bill) and Marvin Edward (Ed). Ed assisted Wes in the founding of the company and Bill worked there also, both of whom Wes taught to fly. The youngest of the four Lematta brothers, Jim, remains active on Columbia Helicopters' Board of Directors.
Wes is survived by his wife of 47 years, Nancy (Dobson); and children, Jeffrey Glenn (Tresa) of Goodyear, AZ, Betsy Lematta of Lake Oswego, OR, Marci Walsh (Dave) of Brush Prairie, WA, and Wesley Bart (Maureen) of Corbett, OR; as well as four grandchildren, Glenn (Jeff), and Cassandra, Maija, and Kaija (Bart); as well as a step-granddaughter, Alix Abel and her daughters, Emma and Chateau (Marci). He is also survived by sister, Evelyn May of Torrence, California. In addition to his brothers already mentioned, Wes' passing was also preceded by those of his daughter, Jill; and sister, Mabel Ritter.
Wes Lematta began Columbia Helicopters in 1957 with a single, small helicopter with which he sold rides at county fairs and from corner lots on weekends. Despite a lack of formal education, his pioneering vision and innate business sense helped him to build his company to where, today, Columbia Helicopters is the world-leader in commercial heavy-lift helicopter operations. Initially, his company was run by he and his brothers, and currently employs over 600 people world-wide.
With over 50 years in the helicopter business, Wes' accomplishments and contributions to industry were nothing short of amazing. Just six months after starting his company, Wes rescued 17 sailors from a sinking dredge in Coos Bay, Oregon - one of the largest single-handed rescues ever to that point.
In 1959, during an external-load operation, Wes recognized he was better able to properly complete the project if he looked down at the load instead of relying on radio contact with the ground. This was the first use of Direct Visual Operational Control (DVOC), which is used through the heavy-lift industry to this day.
In the mid-1960's, Wes was the first person to acquire a large helicopter solely for use in construction projects, which resulted in the creation of the heavy-lift helicopter industry. Today, his company's fleet of heavy-lift helicopters is active in construction projects, fighting wild fires, and supporting petroleum exploration operations around the world.
Wes had long believed that helicopters could be used for logging operations, a vision he realized in 1969. Today, his company remains a leader in helicopter logging operations, one of the most environmentally sensitive forms of timber harvesting.
Also in 1969, Wes acquired the first of his tandem-rotor aircraft, helicopters that would become virtually synonymous with Columbia Helicopters. First purchased from Pan Am and New York Airways, the Boeing and Kawasaki built Vertol 107-IIs became the backbone of the company's fleet. Eventually, Columbia Helicopters became the world's only commercial operator of the Vertol 107-II and Model 234 Chinook helicopters. The company acquired the Type Certificates for these aircraft in December 2006, and Production Certificates for in the autumn of 2009. These aircraft are now designated as Columbia 107-IIs and Columbia Model 234 Chinooks.
Over the years, Wes received various honors and recognitions for his contributions to the helicopter industry. These included the Helicopter Association International's (HAI) Honorary Lifetime Achievement award as well as their Lawrence D. Bell Memorial award for Leadership. He has also claimed the HAI Operators Safety Award (multiple times), the Pathfinder Award presented by the Boeing Museum of Flight, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Air Medal, Alaska Helicopter Society William J. Kossler U.S. Coast Guard Award, and others. Wes and his wife Nancy were also locally and regionally recognized for their outstanding philanthropic work, based on their contributions to many educational, civic and charitable organizations, including Oregon State University, Providence Portland Hospital, Legacy Meridian Park Hospital, Doernbecher Children's Hospital, the arts and sponsor of two classes for the "I Have A Dream" organization in Vancouver, Washington.
In June of 2009, Wes was honored by the Oregon State Legislature, who voted to rename the Aurora State Airport in his honor. The site of his company's headquarters, the airport now bears the additional name of "Wes Lematta Field".
The family suggests that interested parties make donations in his memory to one of the following options: Parkinson's Research through Providence Portland Medical Foundation, 4805 NE Glisan St. Portland, OR 97213; the "I Have A Dream" scholarship program at the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington, 1053 Officers Row, Vancouver, WA 98661; or any other charity with which the donor chooses to honor Wes' memory.

Please sign the Guest Book at www.columbian.com/obits.