Lt. Col. Milan “Bud” Forkapa, Jr., 77, a former county administrator and Air National Guard commander who to brought Toledo its first jet aircraft, died of pneumonia Thursday at Providence Hospital, Sandusky.
Mr. Forkapa was born in Cleveland and was an aviation fan from an early age, said his wife, Cynthia. He graduated from high school in 1942 and immediately volunteered for the Army Air Corps.
He was a fighter pilot in North Africa and Europe and was shot down and injured over Italy just before D-Day. He was taken prisoner and held at a German prisoner of war camp for a year until the European war ended. He was awarded the Air Medal, Purple Heart, and the World War II Victory Medal.
After the war, he studied business administration and sold real estate in the Cleveland area. He married Evelyn Slak in 1948; the couple had four children and later divorced.
He was a sales manager for a chemical company until 1952 and continued to fly fighter planes for the Air National Guard in Mansfield, Ohio. He was given command of a new Air National Guard squadron at Akron-Canton Airport in 1954 and moved his fighter unit to Toledo two years later - introducing jet aircraft to Toledo.
Mr. Forkapa loved to fly, and his good luck and competitive streak served him well, his wife said.
He won the prestigious Ricks Memorial Trophy Race in 1960 by demonstrating his skill at gunnery, bombing, and high-speed flight. His trophy is on display at The Pentagon, his wife said. He was injured slightly in 1964 when his F-84F jet landed short of the runway at Terre Haute, Ind., and caught fire. He walked away from the wreckage.
Mr. Forkapa joined the Toledo Chamber of Commerce and served on dozens of civic boards and committees over many years.
Mr. Forkapa left the area in 1965 to attend the Air War College in Alabama. When he returned, he joined forces with former Toledo Aviation Commissioner Thomas Metcalf to rehabilitate the Toledo Municipal Airport in Wood County for general aviation.
At its peak, their Executive Aviation Corp. was the largest flight school in northwest Ohio and ran as many as 500 operations a day. “They did real well for a while,” said Stanley Irons, a former flight instructor at Metcalf.
“I flew a few extra delivery runs for [Forkapa] in the '50s, took his single-engine Cessna over to New Hampshire, hauling things,” Mr. Irons said. “He was still an Air Force commander, you know. And when a man's a commander, whether he's a captain or a lieutenant or a colonel, he's got his own way of doing it. And if you're working for him, you'd best do it his way.”
Running a rural airport wasn't enough for Mr. Forkapa. He resigned as president of the firm and became Toledo Aviation Commissioner for three years, bringing a “spit and polish military attitude” to Toledo Express Airport, a city-run institution struggling to cope with the area's growing industrial transportation demands.
He formulated a master plan for capital improvements at the airport, restructured its work force, and established a security force. He resigned in 1972, just before the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority Board took over airport operations.
Mr Forkapa immediately went to work for Questor Corp., a Toledo-based manufacturer, and was director of administrative services until he left the firm in 1975. Within months, he was named Lucas County administrator, overseeing clerical execution of decisions made by three commission administrations.
“He was the only Republican there for a while,” his wife said. “He used to get lots of raspberries for it, but when he retired, they threw him a wonderful party. He was well-liked and respected.”
“Bud was a really fine gentleman, a real professional,” said Jim Holzemer, a six-term commissioner who worked closely with Mr. Forkapa. “Lucas County was a really growing place at the time, and he brought a fine sense of humor and a down-to-earth approach to the job.”
In 1984, after nine years of county work, Mr. Forkapa became director of operations for the Regional Emergency Medical Services of Northwest Ohio. He married Cynthia Rick in 1992 and retired before some REMSNO board members were caught up in a financial scandal.
Mr. Forkapa never truly retired. He ran a bowling alley briefly, played golf, and belonged to several clubs, his wife said.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Forkapa is survived by his children: Eric, Rian, and Jody Forkapa and Nancy Platzer; stepson Tamar Harvey, brothers Earl, Paul, Hardy, and Victor; sisters Susie Throop, Sally Minnoti, and Elaine McCullough, and grandchildren.
A memorial service is planned for 1 p.m. Thursday at Witzler-Shank Funeral Home, Perrysburg, with visitation beginning at 11 a.m. Burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery.
The family requests tributes to the Disabled American Veterans.