He offered up his life for his country 30 times during World War II and spent the rest of it serving the communities in which he lived.
Chino Hills resident Wilbur Richardson, 97, died March 1, 2020 in Winchester, Virginia where he lived out his remaining days.
He was born in Long Beach on Nov. 17, 1922.
He enlisted in the Army Air Corps and at the age of 21, flew 30 missions in 79 days sitting in a ball turret of a four-engine B17 bomber. Two of those missions were on D-Day. He was a member of the 331st Bomb Squadron, 94th Bomb Group.
He was wounded on his 30th mission, over Munich in July 1944, and spent five weeks in the hospital.
The decorated veteran wore his uniform proudly each year to accept a Chino Hills city council proclamation during Mighty Eighth Air Force Week, commemorating Oct. 4 through 14, 1943, when 150 heavy bombers were lost.
The Eighth Air Force was dispatched to England in 1942, the largest military unit in World War II and the largest bomber force in history.
He was a recipient of the Purple Heart, five Air Medals, the Presidential Citation, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Croix de Guerre Avec Palm for dropping supplies for French Resistance fighters.
He said he was most proud of the Croix de Guerre Avec Palm medal.
After his military service, Mr. Richardson earned a bachelor’s degree in music from Brigham Young University in Utah, and a master’s degree in education from Cal State Long Beach.
He met his wife, Virginia, in the choir at Cal State Long Beach. They both pursued teaching careers. She died in 1982.
Mr. Richardson taught music, history, and instruments in the Los Alamitos School District for 33 years, and his wife taught in the Long Beach School District.
He sang in the Long Beach Symphony Chorus until it disbanded, the Choral Society of Southern California, and numerous other groups, which took him all around the world.
He moved to Chino Hills in 1991 and attended the incorporation meetings to find out what was going on in the community.
Mr. Richardson was active in numerous veterans’ groups and the Chino Hills Kiwanis Club, serving as president, vice president, board member, and Key Club liaison where he attended campus club meetings at Chino Hills and Ayala high schools.
He was named the Chino Valley Outstanding Citizen for 2012.
He sang with the Chino Valley Community Chorus and served on the San Bernardino County Senior Affairs Commission.
The veteran spent every weekend volunteering for the Planes of Fame Air Museum for 38 years.
He was the first speaker to be chosen for the Chino Hills Arts Committee’s “author talk” series where he spoke about his book called: “Aluminum Castles - WWII from a Gunner’s View.”
He received accolades at the City of Chino Hills’ first official Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 9, 2018 at the Community Center, which was one of his final public appearances.
His dream was that a B17 obtained by Planes of Fame Museum in 1959 from a storage yard in Tucson, Arizona would be restored in his lifetime.
It was built in 1945 and later became known as Piccadilly Lilly II.
Mr. Richardson is survived by two children, Bryan Richardson and Pam Runge, six grandchildren and three great-granddaughters.
A memorial will be held at the Planes of Fame Air Museum at 14998 Cal Aero Drive at the Chino Airport at 10:30 a.m. Friday, March 27.