Carl Robert “Corky” Redding passed away on Sept. 3, 2019, just a week after his 96th birthday, with his children at his side. He was born on Aug. 25, 1923, in Billings, the youngest of six children born to Jessie Dell Veley Redding and Harley Tillman Redding. Corky attended schools in Billings and was in the first graduating class of Billings Senior High School in 1941.
He began his lifelong hobby of photography with classes in high school. He also took aviation mechanics in high school. Prior to WWII, he worked at Boeing Aircraft and also held a Civil Service rating of Junior Aircraft Mechanic at the Ogden Air Force depot.
At the beginning of WWII, he enlisted into the Cadet program of the Army Air Corp and eventually became a member of Satan’s Angels 475th Fighter Group, 433rd Squadron. He flew the P-38 Lightning, serving in the South Pacific theater. He even flew some missions with the top three fighter aces of the war: Maj. Richard Bong, Maj. Thomas McGuire, Col. Charles MacDonald, and also Charles Lindbergh.
Corky’s brother, Stew, was also serving in the Philippines when he witnessed a P-38 crash land. He later learned that Corky was the pilot of that crash. Corky referred to the crash as his “ticket home.” He suffered a broken back and was in traction for months in a military hospital before returning to Billings.
Corky married Margaret Johnson in Billings on Oct. 15, 1955. They had two children, Mark and Shelly. They later divorced but remained friends until her death, and he never remarried.
He worked as a flight instructor for several years. He also worked in sales and parts for Heald Supply and Interstate Distributing. After retirement, he volunteered at Billings Clinic well into his 80s.
Corky was very proud of his military service and loved attending reunions with Mark. He enjoyed reminiscing with all his pilot buddies from the “outfit.” In 2012, Shelly was able to travel with him on the second Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., to experience the National World War II monument.
He spent his final years at Tender Nest in Billings, where many of his caregivers were like a second family. He was also thankful for the care he received from everyone at Billings Clinic.
Corky was preceded in death by his mother and father, and siblings Frieda Winkelman, Ruth Burke, Edmon Stewart Redding, Geraldine Johnson and Max Allen Redding.
He is survived by his son Mark; daughter Shelly (Kim) Carlson; grandchildren Kimberly (Kyle) Rengel, Bryan Redding, Jeff (Steph) Redding and Jamie Redding; and 11 great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10, at Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary, 1001 Alderson Ave.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to a charity of one’s choice.