Kenneth L. Gerondale, 91, of Anchorage, Alaska, died Friday, June 12, 2020.
Nearly 70 years earlier, Gerondale was awarded the Carnegie Medal for saving the 24-year-old pilot of a jet-propelled military airplane from burning on Aug. 3, 1951, after it crashed and ripped apart in a wooded swamp in Anchorage.
The pilot sustained severe injuries, including a fractured skull, and was rendered unconscious. A tree fell across the cockpit and partly covered him. Gasoline ignited flames rose 30 feet above one of the wing sections. Machine-gun ammunition was strewn over the ground and began discharging at rapid intervals.
Several men responded to the scene, including Gerondale, 22, a commercial airline pilot, by seaplane.
Gerondale ran to a burning ammunition magazine 4 feet from the cockpit and hurled it into the wooded area, as others released the pilot’s seat belt and cut his shoulder harness.
Together, the men raised the pilot from the seat and carried him to a nearby lake shortly before a gasoline explosion occurred near the cockpit. The pilot survived.
Gerondale was born April 19, 1929, in Wisconsin and was raised by parents, aunts, and uncles. In 1944, he lied about his age and enlisted in what was then the Army Air Corps. He learned to fly in the service while stationed in China. In 1948, he was transferred to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska.
After leaving the service, Gerondale flew as a bush pilot for Sea Airmotive from 1949 to 1953 and then worked for Alaska Aggregate Corporation and the Teamsters Training trust, retiring in 1987.
Gerondale married Patricia Aylward in 1949, and she preceded him in death. Together they had three sons: Ken, Jr.; Bob; and Rich. After his wife’s death in 2004, Gerondale married Evelyn (Evie) Givens, who survives him. In addition to his sons and Evie, Gerondale is also survived by sisters, Sandi and Pat; seven grandchildren, Chad, Chris, Katy, Heath, Hilary, Richie, and Kari; and nine great-grandchildren.
In his last few decades, Gerondale enjoyed gardening, fishing with his three sons, and flying with his eldest son. His friends remember his sharp tongue, vibrant personality, and great sense of humor.