Lt. Col Leon “Buck” Webber, USAF Ret., a three-war veteran and long-time Fort Worth resident, took off on his last flight on Friday, May 1.
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He passed away peacefully in Las Cruces, New Mexico, the last of more than two dozen places he called home over an extraordinary journey of 93 years.
He was the fourth of seven kids, born in Maljamar, New Mexico in 1926 to Ladd Webber, a cowboy and longtime Texaco field manager and Tommie Taylor Webber, from a pioneer New Mexico and Lea County family. He was the step-son of the late Thelma Taylor Webber of Hobbs.
He went to school in Maljamar and Jal and graduated from Lovington High School in 1943.
Leon enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1945, catching the end of WWII – the first of three wars in which he served.
He attended New Mexico State University (then NM A&M) and the New Mexico School of Mines before graduating from the University of Tulsa in 1952. Before that he met and married LaNelle Griffith, from Lockney, Texas. LaNelle, fresh out of Texas Tech, was teaching school in Lovington. They were partners for the next 51 years until LaNelle’s death in 2003. They lived and traveled around the world, raising three kids along the way.
After graduating he was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant and sent off to flight school. He spent the next 30 years flying a variety of aircraft for the USAF. Most of those years were as a command pilot in the B-52.
He had somewhere around 10,000 flying hours in his book, flew more than 150 combat missions in Vietnam and had a nice collection of medals, none of which he ever talked about. After the Air Force he spent another 16 years in business aviation with SimuFlite, training business jet pilots.
15 years ago, he married Betty Fort Graham, a hometown gal from Lovington. They were an adorable couple and his time with her was not only very happy, but surely extended his life for years as well. Her family embraced him as well, something for which he was grateful beyond words.
Dad liked bad jokes and a good martini, often together. In his younger days he was a competitive runner and handball player, later a fine golfer and excellent bridge player.
He loved exploring and was always up for going somewhere or seeing something new. He like to see what was around the corner or over the next hill.
He was a colorful storyteller and a gifted griller of steaks. He was a poor but enthusiastic harmonica player.
He could talk to anyone. And often did.
Leon is survived by three kids: Melissa Petty, her husband Michael and son Andrew; Michael Webber and Susan Engelhart and his kids Nick and Audrey; Eric Webber and his sons Jake and Dylan. His much-loved daughter-in-law Karen Webber left us before he did.
Betty’s family became his too, and vice versa, and he leaves behind her daughter Janet Jaquess and her husband John, son Alan Graham and wife Sally and daughter Susan Graham and her husband Clay Brakeley, along with 11 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
This leaves his sister Tommie Dean (Tot) as the last of the clan.
Leon will be buried at the National Cemetery in Dallas as soon as we can get him on the schedule there.