Jim Mahle always had a passion for flying, and “his heart has always been with the pioneers of aviation,” reported wife Mary Jo Mahle.
“Jim (who passed away in February) wanted to enjoy life, and every day was a gift.”
On Sept. 27, friends gathered at the Batesville Memorial Public Library to present a gift to him and his family with the dedication of the Jim Mahle Memorial Aviation Collection.
Thanks to an anonymous donor, a plaque was created by Tim Weberding that captured Mahle’s image and the hobby he loved. Its inscription says, “No one believed more fervently in the honor of our Armed Forces and the need to support our veterans. Jim believed in learning from history and giving this education to our children. He made many efforts for this belief. Above all, he believed in family and loyalty to friends.”
Mary Jo Mahle recalled, “Building model airplanes and joining the Civil Air Patrol were his most important interests as he grew up. After his formal schooling, he worked at a U.S. post office to pay for his flying lessons. Jim received a commendation from the postal service for stopping a robbery on his mail route in 1958.
“His first job in aviation was at Skyways Inc., where he flew charters and also taught flying lessons. He worked as a co-pilot for a company in Chicago for a year and a half before taking a job with Hillenbrand Industries in 1963. He flew with ‘Chan’ Godfrey, a World War II veteran who was chief pilot and a member of the 352nd Fighter Squadron, to which the Aviation Section at the library was dedicated.
“Hillenbrand Aviation saw many changes and growth in the 39 years that Jim was employed there.” During that time, Jim and Mary Jo were married and had two children, Rob and Sara. “His family became his first love, but aviation was a close second,” she revealed.
Mahle was a Civil Air Patrol member from his teenage years until his death. He led a very active CAP squadron in Batesville and served as Indiana Wing commander from September 1972-January 1976. His dedication was recognized many times. He received the Distinguished Service Award in 1973 and the Grover Loening Award in 1976, but “what he treasured most was the friendship and respect of his cadets. They participated in many camps, conferences and several search and rescue missions.
“As a devoted member of St. Louis Parish, he advocated the benefits of a good education and the need for guiding our children. His deep belief in God gave him the strength to fight the esophageal cancer he was diagnosed with in 2008. For the four-and-a-half years after that, he filled his time enjoying and helping others. He died of acute myeloid leukemia Feb. 15. His smile remains with all who knew him,” his wife announced.
Mike Kruse, BMPL director, recalled Mahle and the late Al Giesting were the first two to approach him about the idea of starting an aviation section at the library. “At first, they just thought we’d want to just add some books to our nonfiction section. But it soon became apparent that this would be a sizable collection of somewhat specialized items, and they deserved their own section in the library.
“Al and Jim brought us boxes of aviation books and magazines. I spoke with them about Al’s experiences in the Second World War and about the men from this area who served with the 352nd Fighter Group in Europe. Our first military materials came from Al’s personal collection. While there are plenty of military aviation books here, there are also books on commercial and private aviation, of which Jim had additional interest and experience.
“Soon, others who had heard of our collection offered to add to it, including Richard DeBruin, Wisconsin, who was head of the 352nd Fighter Group Association, and Joe Noah from the Preddy Memorial Foundation. Preddy was the 352nd’s top ace, and Noah donated an illustration and plaque from the foundation. Others in the community have been regular contributors, adding books and funds to help us purchase more.”
Kruse added, “Quite simply, this collection would never have existed without him (Mahle). The beautiful plaque carved by Tim Weberding and the extensive amount of books and other materials and memorabilia in this collection will serve as daily reminders of Jim’s passion for flying. As far as we are concerned, Jim is a part of local aviation history, and we are so happy to be able to share this collection, named in his memory, with the public.
“Since becoming one of over 100 Evergreen Indiana libraries (where card holders can borrow materials from other member libraries), we’ve seen the circulation of many items from this collection increase to include borrowers from all around the state. We invite anyone with an interest in learning more about aviation and its history to check out the Jim Mahle Memorial Aviation Collection here at the library.”
Diane Raver can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-934-4343, Ext. 114.