Neighbors: Finding a North Dakota connection at an Arizona museum

Steve Fritel ran into a nice surprise when he was visiting Arizona recently. It was a touch of his home state of North Dakota. Steve, of Barton, N.D., near Rugby, attended an open house at an air museum at Falcon Field in Mesa. "The first plane I...
Steve Fritel recently spotted this plane with a connection to North Dakota while visiting the Falcon Field air museum in Mesa, Ariz. Special to The Forum

Steve Fritel ran into a nice surprise when he was visiting Arizona recently. It was a touch of his home state of North Dakota.

Steve, of Barton, N.D., near Rugby, attended an open house at an air museum at Falcon Field in Mesa.

"The first plane I noticed," Steve writes, "was a 1945 L5 Stinson named the Kindred Spirit. I thought, 'OK, this has to have a North Dakota connection.'

"Sure enough, the information on the windshield recognized the late Bob Odegaard for his contributions as a war plane restorer in North Dakota as well as in Arizona."

Bob, the son of Melford and Annette Odegaard, was born in 1946 in Fargo. He grew up near Kindred, N.D., hence the name on the plane. He graduated from the University of Minnesota Boarding School High School in Crookston, Minn., and became a pilot at age 16.

He trained to become a licensed airplane mechanic in California when he was 21, then started an airplane maintenance business in 1966 and a crop-dusting service in 1968.

But his main interest kicked in a few years later when he began restoring World War II planes in his shop at the Kindred airport. He went on to rebuild many such planes, including a B-25 bomber used in the movie "Catch-22" that he tore apart, hauled from Texas and assembled at the Grand Forks Air Force base, which put it on display.

Steve says he talked to a museum assistant at the airport in Mesa who was knowledgeable about all the things Bob had done for the museum. Among them: loaning it two other planes Bob had restored, a 1938 Stinson Model SR-10G "Gullwing" and a 1944 P-51 Mustang "Stang."

Bob was also active in the formation of the Fargo Air Museum. He was featured in many aviation magazines and books, received many aviation awards and in 2011 was inducted into the North Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame.

Bob was killed in a plane crash in 2012 while he was practicing for an air show in Valley City, N.D.

He was survived by his wife Donna (for whom Bob named his first rebuilt P-51 Mustang) and three children Brady, Casey and Halley.

"It's very possible many of the people in attendance (at the Mesa open house) didn't realize who Bob Odegaard was and of his passion for restoring planes," Steve says, "but anyone from North Dakota who was there was very proud of a fellow North Dakotan and the positive things he has done."

 

 

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 701-241-5487 or email blind@forumcomm.com.