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A pilot who soared in life: Recalling Joe Noah

SoVaNow.com / April 22, 2020
Joe Noah was a man of many dimensions. Husband, father, grandfather, decorated veteran, pilot, engineer, businessperson, altruist, mentor and community leader — these are but a few of the titles he garnered in his life’s work.

A quiet and contemplative man by nature, with family, business, and community at the heart of his existence, Noah died Thursday, April 16 at the age of 92.

Local realtor Bill Baker, owner of United Country Virginia Realty in Clarksville, expressed it well when he wrote, “I lost a friend today.” Baker told of Noah’s quiet support during a particularly trying time for Baker’s family: “Joe was always looking forward, always available to help, always more interested in others than himself, forever grateful for life.”

Noah’s inherent goodness was on constant display with his unabashed and unwavering commitment to friends and community. From his work on behalf of the Lake Country Regional Airport — he, Jesse Overstreet and A.W. Talbott were the three original trustees of the airport in Clarksville — to his service as the first administrative assistant of the nascent Clarksville Lake Country Chamber of Commerce, and his willingness to take and share aerial photos of the lake country, his pursuits connected people with each other.

During his time volunteering for the Chamber of Commerce, Noah helped to grow the area’s largest festival, Lakefest “to a whole new level that continues to be the cornerstone of our community’s summer fun,” according to Baker. He and Overstreet and Talbott laid the groundwork for the local airport, and Noah’s thousands of aerial photos are the artwork that grace the walls of many of Clarksville’s public buildings.

Noah also helped to create one of the Clarksville Regional Museum’s many popular exhibits, which celebrates local war heroes and veterans.

His legacy lives and breathes the kindness he showed to all he encountered and is proof of the unspoken creed Noah strived to live by — do the right thing, in the right way and at the right time. His broad influence and positive impact over so many cannot be overstated. Noah was a visionary, an inspiring mentor, and a thoughtful leader in every way.

Social distancing and the Governor’s executive order that limits the number of people who can attend a public gathering may prevent us from a traditional celebration of Noah. We can still honor his legacy and a life well-lived by helping our community rebuild. In the words of Baker, “As our country restarts and tries to get through these difficult days, I ask all to consider that each of us needs to follow the life example that Joe Noah set. Joe always showed up!”

Greensboro, N.C. native Joe Noah was a pilot in the U.S. military for over 20 years, serving in World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam campaigns.

He soloed in a J-3 Cub in August 1944 and joined the U.S. Merchant Marines on June 12, 1945.

Noah left the Maritime Service at the end of World War II and enrolled in college at North Carolina State College before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps in August 1946. He spent the next two years as a rifleman and fire fighter before leaving active duty for the second time.

He then completed his degree at North Carolina State University, and was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in the U.S. Air Force through the school’s Air Force ROTC program.

As a lieutenant, Noah served as an engineering officer on C-82 Packet transport planes with the 56th Troop Carrier Squadron at Donaldson AFB, South Carolina, and then with Operation Longhorn in San Angelo, Texas.

His next assignment was as a C-119 Flying Boxcar engineering officer with the 61st Troop Carrier Squadron at Ashiya Airbase in Japan, during which time he participated in missions during both the Korean War and the First Indochina War in Vietnam.

Promoted to Captain, Noah next completed an Air Force Institute of Technology assignment at Stanford University, where he earned his master’s degree in June 1955. His final active duty assignment was at Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, New York where he served as a procurement staff officer at the Rome Air Force Depot until joining the Air Force Reserves in June 1958. Maj. Noah received an honorable discharge from the Air Force Reserve on May 10, 1967.

After leaving active duty, Noah worked for the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, Calif. for five years, and various other companies for the next seven years before starting his own business in 1970, which he ran for the next 13 years. During that time, he and wife Betty founded the Preddy Memorial Foundation to honor his cousins George and Bill Preddy, World War II fighter pilots who lost their lives in combat over Europe.

Joe and Betty retired to Clarksville in 1983. He continued to fly for work and pleasure, maintaining his commercial pilot with instrument rating, and oversee the Preddy Memorial Foundation. In his spare time, he authored or co-authored two books, “Wings God Gave My Soul,” and “George Preddy, Top Mustang Ace.”

He is survived by his wife, Betty Richardson Noah; son, Robert Noah of Falls Church, daughters, Judy Johnson (Fred) of Kingsport, Tenn. and Susan Forsberg (Steve) of Greenwood, S.C. and by granddaughter, Heather Logan of Johnson City, Tenn.

The family will hold a private memorial service. In lieu of flowers they ask friends to consider a donation to the charity of your choice.

South Boston News
A portrait of the original three trustees of the Lake Country Regional Airport, Jesse Overstreet, Joe Noah (center) and A.W. Talbott. (Portrait by local artist Terry Denton)


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