Published in Midwest Flyer – October/November 2019 Issue
INTERNATIONAL FALLS, MINN. – Family and friends are celebrating the lives of two iconic figures in aviation, Francis William Einarson, 91, died May 10, 2019, and Joyce Lucille Einarson, 88, died May 18, 2019.
Francis William Einarson
Francis was born on September 27, 1927 in Middle River, Minnesota to parents, James T. and Ellen R. Einarson. He graduated from Middle River High School in 1945, and served in the U.S. Army from 1946-1947.
On April 14, 1951, Francis married Joyce Lucille Napper, and together they had five children, Twila “Pia”, Franella “Piper”, Francis James, Tucky, and Thor.
Francis had a lifelong fascination with aviation. He took his first ride in an airplane in 1939, and learned to fly after the war.
Francis’s older brother, James A. Einarson, attended Spartan School of Aviation in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Upon completing his private pilot training, he suggested to Francis that there may be an opportunity for them in aviation, so in 1948, Francis, James and their parents pooled their resources, purchased a used 1947 Aeronca 7AC “Champ” from Spartan for $2,000, and bought the fixed base operation at International Falls Airport (now Falls International Airport – Einarson Field, KINL) from Van Etten for $3,000, and founded Einarson Bros. Flying Service. It was James who taught his younger brother, Francis, how to fly.
The $2,000 outlay of cash for the Aeronca “Champ” had drained the family’s resources, so they financed the purchase of the business for five years, and Francis, James, and Thor took full-time jobs in the Minnesota at the Ontario Pulp & Paper mill, working the 4:00 p.m. to midnight shift so they could operate the fixed base operation during the day. In their absence, Ellen fueled aircraft and took care of the office duties.
The fixed base operation provided flight-training, fuel, maintenance and sightseeing tours of the area.
Francis logged countless hours of accident-free flight, and conducted many search and rescue operations and pioneered early air ambulance service to northern Minnesota and Ontario. He flew many lifesaving air ambulance trips, and in 1970, installed an incubator in his airplane to transport premature infants.
Francis aided the University of Minnesota’s cosmic ray research program, and lobbied the state and federal government to improve International Falls Airport. Through his efforts, Falls International Airport grew from a small 3000 ft. runway to a first-class international airport with scheduled airline service, and international service to the general aviation community.
At the completion of Francis’ career, Falls International Airport had a 7400 ft. primary runway (13/31), both with ILS approaches, VORTAC navaid, and direct live communications to Minneapolis Center, in the air and on the ground.
NOTHING happened at Falls International Airport without Francis’ input, as he was respected for his experience, knowledge and good wit. Francis made it a point to meet and great every scheduled flight, as well as general aviation aircraft that arrived/departed – a tradition carried on by his son, Thor, who manages the airport today.
Francis was the consummate flight instructor. His passion for training pilots was recognized when he was named “Flight Instructor of The Year,” and in 1998, he was inducted into the Minnesota Aviation Hall Of Fame.
The Francis W. Einarson Scholarship Fund at Rainy River Community College is being established for students interested in aviation. Memorials may be directed care of Francis J. Einarson, 16157 70th Avenue North, Maple Grove, MN 55311. Memorials may also be sent to the Salvation Army, 1301 3rd Ave, International Falls, MN 56649; and the International Falls Public Library, 750 4th St, International Falls, MN 56649.
Joyce Lucille Einarson
Joyce Lucille Einarson, 88, of International Falls, Minnesota, was born February 16, 1931 in International Falls to parents William A. and Gertrude M. (Blake) Napper. She was the fifth of 12 children.
Joyce was never a stranger to hard work. She instilled in her children the value of faith, family, and hard work. She attended schools in Littlefork and International Falls, putting aside her studies a number of times and returning to the workforce to provide funds for her parents, at one time purchasing eyeglasses for her younger sisters. She eventually earned her High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED) at age 68.
Joyce’s early career as a telephone operator and direct sales entrepreneur, provided financial support for her growing family. She enjoyed reading, cooking, baking, the needle arts, and singing, valued the arts, and was a natural with a sewing machine, in which she created clothing for her five growing children.
A tireless church worker, Joyce served in many circles, and opened their home to missionaries from around the world, giving her children their first experience of a world view of life. She was also a Certified Home Health Aide for Koochiching County, providing personal care to patients.
The matriarch of the Einarson family, Joyce stood beside her husband, Francis, as he built a career in aviation and community service.
Memorials in Joyce Einarson’s name may be sent to the Evangelical Covenant Church, 1631 1st Ave E, International Falls, MN 56649.