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Gene Abney

October 18, 1918 - September 16, 2008

SPRINGFIELD – Arthur Eugene Gene Abney, 89, of Springfield died at 12:27 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2008, at St. Joseph’s Home in Springfield.

He was born Oct. 18, 1918, near Harco, the son of George and Ada Hamilton Abney.

He attended Vineyard School, the country school near Harco. He graduated from Harrisburg High School in Harrisburg in 1938, and Southern Illinois Normal University, Carbondale in 1946. In 1951, he graduated from Lincoln College of Law in Springfield with his law degree.

At Southern, he was a member of Kappa Delta Alpha and initiated the Flying Egyptians student organization, flying out of the Marion, Illinois Airport and then with the 35 members, joined the U.S. Navy as a group, serving in the Pacific Theater in World War II. He was assigned to Corpus Christi, Texas, and was preparing to go back into the Pacific area when he met and married Helen Fetzer, originally of Pleasant Plains, on Nov. 9, 1945. After 63 years of marriage, she died in July 2008.

Mr. Abney is survived by his two sons, William Wayne (Leslie) Abney of Makanda and Robert Hamilton (Demetra) Abney of Woodstock; three grandsons, Jonathan Abney, Benjamin Abney and Drew Abney.

He was preceded in death by his wife and his parents.

He was a member of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Springfield.

During his business career he was, for a short time, an air traffic controller with the Civil Aeronautics Administration in Cleveland. While studying at Lincoln College of Law in Springfield, he worked for the Illinois Bonus Board. Following that he worked with the Illinois Department of Aeronautics and was appointed assistant director and then director by Gov. Adlai Stevenson; later he was reappointed by Gov. William Stratton. As director, he pioneered and introduced many innovative aviation programs as Illinois entered the post-war years. He was president of the National Association of State Aviation Officials in 1957. He was associated with American Airlines from 1962 to 1982 until he retired and taught aviation law at Southern Illinois University, living then in Carterville. He was a member of the Illinois Bar Association and active in many community, business and charitable activities. He was inducted into the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame in 1990 and named the 2001 Southern Illinois University Distinguished Alumnus. He served on the Illinois Kidney Disease Advisory Board until 2004. As a salute to Orville and Wilbur Wright he wrote the book, Wings Over Illinois, published in 2007 by Southern Illinois University Press.

Visitation will be held on Friday, Sept. 19, 2008, from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at Staab Funeral Home, 1109 S. Fifth St., Springfield, IL 62703. A funeral service will follow at 10:30 a.m. at the funeral home, with Pastor Paul Olson officiating. Interment will be held in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield with military honors conducted by the Interveterans Burial Detail of Sangamon County.

The family has requested memorial donations be made to his grandson Jonathan’s group

home, Milestone Inc., 4060 McFarland Road, Loves Park, IL 61111, Attn: Arles.

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