Dale Davis Holcomb hailed from the kind of small town where, according to his son, "after two days the wind starts whistling through your ears."

Growing up in a family of farmers in Richland, Oregon (pop. 156), Holcomb did a bit of everything as a young man in the 1930s to avoid that fate, from gold mining to the rodeo.

Then the skies came calling.

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Holcomb, who died Feb. 25 at age 97, settled for decades in Bethpage. But he was often halfway around the country or the world as a pilot and flight engineer for some of the earliest American commercial airlines.

"He didn't want to be a farmer," said his son, Gary Holcomb. "He was an airline man. He just loved flying and loved traveling the world."

Dale Holcomb's aviation career coincided with the outset of World War II. With his ankle in a cast from a car accident, he couldn't serve in combat, his son said, so he aided the military as a civilian by repairing aircraft engines, working as a flight engineer and flying cargo across the Pacific.

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After the war, Holcomb and his first wife, Esther -- who died in 1981 -- settled on Long Island, raising three children. Over more than 30 years, he worked for Trans World Airlines, Eastern Air Lines and Pan American World Airways.

"Dad flew everywhere in the world," Gary Holcomb said.

Not all of the spots lived up to expectations. Gary Holcomb recalled how his father waited years to get enough seniority to fly to Aruba, but came home disappointed, saying it was "nothing but a sand dune and a hotel."

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Grandson Jerrold Scholz said his stint in the Air Force helped him bond with his grandfather.

"It was definitely something he was proud of and excited about," Scholz, of Bethpage, said of his grandfather's reaction to his military service and flying.

They would trade stories about flight routines and challenges, including zero-visibility landings in spots such as Iceland.

"You'd see old pictures of him and he was definitely like Howard Hughes," Scholz said, referring to the eccentric early 20th century aviator's appearance. "You could tell that was his role model in the way he dressed."

As much as Holcomb loved traveling, he ended his life where it started: in small-town Oregon. He and his second wife moved to New Bridge, Oregon, near Richland, a decade ago, and Holcomb passed the time rebuilding old tractors.

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"Once you're born in a place like that, your roots are always there," his son said.

Survivors include his wife, Barbara Schindler; son Gary Holcomb of Nampa, Idaho; daughters Linda Holcomb Scholz of Atlantis, Florida, and Holly Holcomb Cottone of West Islip; five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Services were held Monday in Richland, with interment at Eagle Valley Cemetery. Donations may be made to his town's EMTs, via Tami's Pine Valley Funeral Home & Cremation Services, P.O. Box 543, Halfway, OR 97834.