James Edgar Waldron
May 19, 1925 – October 5, 2020
James Edgar Waldron, patriarch of the Waldron, Kearns, Leighty clans of the Virginias slipped the surly bonds of earth for his last time on October 5, 2020 at the age of 95.
Commander Waldron, as he was known in his professional life, was a skilled and experienced aviator. Jim began flying at the age of 14 in his hometown of New Orleans, LA. Following high school, he attended Loyola University and as was the case for many at the time, he worked for the war effort as a machinist honing propeller shafts for Higgins boats. On his 18th birthday he was called to the personnel office of the company where he was greeted by his father and a Navy recruiter. His father informed Jim that he had just volunteered to join the Navy and was leaving on a train for Pensacola for flight training that night.
Following general flight training Commander Waldron trained on F6F Hellcats. He received his carrier rating on the docks of Navy Pier in Chicago on August 16, 1945, the day the surrender with Japan was signed. Rejecting offers of discharge, he stayed with the Navy as a ferry pilot, bringing planes back from Europe. During his career, Jim’s flight logs certified flight time in over 240 aircraft types. He then transferred to the Naval Reserve while he pursued a degree from Tulane University. He was recalled to active duty for the Korean War and trained as a helicopter pilot, ultimately becoming a flight instructor for the Navy. He served two years as a rescue pilot, flying from carriers in the Mediterranean. He modestly related that during the tedious boredom of circling the Mediterranean, he ONLY saved nine lives!
Leaving the warmth of the Mediterranean he then spent two years in Antarctica supporting the scientific community at the South Pole. He flew numerous missions in subzero whiteout conditions and his heroism was rewarded with the naming of a mountain range in Antarctica in his honor, the Waldron Spurs. Jim’s expertise of flying in adverse conditions and the breadth of aircraft flown led to him being assigned to a super-secret detachment with the Navy out of Naval Air Development Center NASA, Johnsville, PA. This special unit had 14 personnel, 12 PhD Scientists and two pilots. Their mission was to incorporate all the newly developed technology such as radar, sonar and infrared and to explore aviation uses of this technology. These days were fondly remembered by Jim for the intellectual discussions of religion, philosophy, literature, and music that occurred during the evening hours with these top scientists. During this time Jim’s unit was ordered to Key West where he piloted surveillance flights over Russian ships utilizing the new thermal technology that ultimately discovered the Russian missiles heading for Cuba. Jim completed his career in the Navy commanding squadrons in Japan, California, and Norfolk. Jim retired in 1970.
Commander Waldron loved flying and his service to our nation. His fondest memories of flying included an expedited takeoff in a Hellcat where he reached 10,000 ft before he reached the end of the runway, his humanitarian missions to Guatemala and Morocco following natural disasters, and his flights in the pristine world of Antarctica. Jim was devoted to his church, serving in numerous capacities at St Michael’s Catholic Church. He was also active in the Knights of Columbus serving on the Ceremonial Team and Honor Guard.
Commander Waldron was predeceased by his first wife, Ruth. Jim leaves behind his wife of 50 years, Merle Ann Waldron; his children, Cynthia (Frank), Theresa (Sheri) and Paul; his stepchildren, Marti Kearns Leighty (Bill), Thomas Raymond Kearns and Mary Ann Kearns (Walter Wright); four grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
Due to Covid restrictions, a Catholic mass and military honors at the outside columbarium at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Glen Allen, VA will be held at a later date.
I have fond memories of Jim from the VA Medical Center. He was kind, generous and helpful. I always enjoyed talking with him and remember him describing landing a plane on skis on the ice at the Antarctic. I believe I have a piece of furniture he constructed for me. I also remember his daughter, Cynthia who worked as a nurse at the VA and hope that other people have such positive memories offers a small bit of comfort on the loss of Commander Waldron.
The Fisher family sends our love and condolences to the Waldron family. It’s been many years since we all lived on the Weybridge, Surry, and Stepney loop, but we share fond memories from those days. I once again crossed paths with Jim and Merle at St. Michael’s and I always looked forward to visiting with them for a bit after Mass to catch up and share our family updates. We will be keeping jim and all of you in our thoughts and prayers. All our love, Dorothy and the Fisher Family
Jim is always fondly remembered as an officer and a gentleman. My sympathy extends to those he left behind.
Uncle Jim shared his “stories” about his interesting life that he documented with me. He was my stepfather and my mother’s brother. She was always so proud of Jim’s accomplishments. My sympathies to the family. I love you all.
I remember Jim from the VA when I first worked there as an Educational Therapist back in the ’70s. He was always the go-to person and was always knowledgeable about Veterans Affairs. I then knew him as a brother Knight in Council 6189 – Bishop Ireton. Jim was a most
generous and fun loving guy. He will be missed. I want to give my condolences to his family.
I never knew the story about James Edgar, Sr. and the Navy recruiting person. If the story is true, it may explain why Jim dishonored his Louisiana family for the rest of his days. Edgar was a Navy veteran of WW1, and maritime merchant engineer of WW2. Jim never visited his mother Cecelia, even as she was dying. I, myself, was made to understand that Jim would never recognize his birth family with any but the most perfunctory and shallow respects. I feel like Uncle Jimmy was embarrassed to admit he was from New Orleans, and that his family was not elite or highly cultured.