Gordon Evans Sylvester

Gordon Evans Sylvester
September 17, 1916 - January 4, 2010
A Good Life, Lived By a Good Man

Gordon Evans Sylvester, 93, husband, father and grandfather, passed away Monday, January 4, 2010.

Gordon was born Sept. 17, 1916, in Seattle, Washington. Gordon, also known as "Gordy" or "Sy," represented the very best of his generation. His life was one of devotion to career and family. As a boy, he tracked the reaches of the Skagit River country in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. An interest in electronics and amateur radio led to his receiving a B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Washington in 1939. He was awarded membership in Tau Beta Pi, the oldest engineering honor society in the United States. For two summers, Gordon served as a fire lookout with the U.S. Forest Service in the Snoqualmie National Forest. Those summers served as a watershed of spiritual experience upon which he would draw throughout his life.

In 1939, he began a career in aviation manufacturing that would span a profound range of historical events and technological developments. Initially, working for Consolidated Aircraft in San Diego, California, Sy contributed to the development of the PBY Catalina seaplane. He served as the lead electrical engineer for the B-24 Liberator bomber.

In 1942, he met and married Dora Carnine, a young draftsman who was one of the first of the swelling workforce of women who took on manufacturing responsibilities during World War II. To them, a daughter, Cheryl, was born in 1950 and a son, James, in 1952.

From 1942 to 1949, Sy worked at the Fort Worth division of Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft (later Convair). He was responsible for the development of lightweight 400 cycle (Hz) alternating current systems for the XB-32 and XB-36 aircraft. The innovation of such fundamental technology remains as the basis for electrical systems used in many large aircraft. Continued responsibility in the development of B-36 systems led to a transition from design and engineering to administrative and management duties.

In 1952, Sy became a senior project engineer at the Pomona, California, division of Convair (later part of General Dynamics). He supervised the development, production and improvement of surface-to-air Terrier missiles for the U.S. Navy. From 1961 to 1968, he served as vice president of operations and was responsible for development and production of the Redeye shoulder-launched missile for the U.S. Army. In 1967, he championed construction of the Fort Defiance electronics assembly facility on the Navajo reservation in Window Rock, Ariz.

During his years in California, Gordon served as a director of the Valencia Heights Water Company, as a director of the Foothill Country Day School of Claremont, California, and as president of the Ridge Riders Association of Covina, California.

In 1968, Sy returned to the Fort Worth division of General Dynamics. He served as director of manufacturing and vice president of operations during the facility's production of the F-111 swing-wing bomber and the initial development and production of the F-16 Fighting Falcon air-superiority fighter, which remains in service throughout the world.

In 1977, he transitioned to a new role as a consultant. For many years, he served as an adviser and supervisor of subcontractors in the development of the Tomahawk cruise missile. Starting in 1991, he served for several years as a consultant to the Swedish government in connection with its development of the Gripen fighter. He continued to work into his early 80s.

The litany of projects and responsibilities, however, draw only an outline of the man. Those who knew him will remember him for his unimpeachable integrity and quiet generosity. While his life was marked by technical expertise and exertion, Gordy had a reserved but playful sense of humor. At his core, he retained a sense of innocent purity that won him the respect and love of those fortunate enough to come within his orbit. We will miss him dearly.

Survivors: Wife of 67 years, Dora; daughter, Cheryl Morton and husband, Roscoe, of West Des Moines, Iowa; son, James Sylvester of Austin; granddaughter, Michele Baird of Berkeley, California; and grandson, Bill Morton of West Des Moines, Iowa.

Service: A private family memorial service will be held at a later date.
Memorials: The family would ask that those inclined to commemorate his life to do so by making a contribution of funds or service to an appropriate institution or simply to pause to salute a long and fruitful life.

Published in Star-Telegram on January 6, 2010

This is my Uncle Gordy. His work always fascinated me - most of it was classified, and much still is, but I knew he was involved with planes and weapons systems.  I loved the professional models of airplanes in the living room.  He was the family photographer and took the pictures and movies that recorded the family.  I have vast and loving remembrances of him throughout my childhood years. He was a man who was always the strength and support of his family and there wasn't anything he wouldn't do for them. He was kind and funny. He always served as an example for me of what a man should aspire to be - as a person, as a husband, as a father and as a neighbor. His goodness was genuine. We are all better people for having known him.

I am copying the Legacy.com comments to the comments here.  They should be preserved.  Someday, his grandchildren or great-grandchildren may come looking and I want them to know what a wonderful man he was. Legacy Page - http://www.legacy.com/gb2/default.aspx?bookid=1378822708870