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Published: Sunday, 11/13/2005

WW II fighter pilot held 2 speed records

John Edward Saum, 87, a decorated U.S. Army Air Corps World War II fighter pilot who held two world speed records for light planes, died of a stroke yesterday in Toledo Hospital.

Mr. Saum, a retired executive vice president of Nordmann Roofing Co., set the speed records in 1983 and in 1985.

Mr. Saum set his 1983 record - 214.21 mph for 500 kilometers - at the site of the annual Oshkosh 500 air race, near Fond du Lac, Wis., where his 1985 speed record was 187 mph in a 1,000-kilometer race, with the same plane.

Mr. Saum was one of 24 pilots selected to participate in the aerial flight at the funeral of the late Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945.

He also helped train the famous Tuskegee Airmen during the war.

In 1986, the Federation Aeronotique Internationale honored Mr. Saum for his contribution to sporting aviation by awarding him the prestigious Louis Bleriot medal named after an early French aviator.

"When you get into an activity like this, you don't think about growing old. It keeps you going," Mr. Saum told The Blade in a 1984 interview.

He was proud of his world records, but even prouder that he built the racer himself - his Saum-Cassutt Formula One racer plane, a modified Cassutt midwing aircraft designed for pylon racing. "It took me 3 1/2 years, and I practically rebuild it every year," he said.

Mr. Saum, a native of Hagerstown, Md., graduated from Hagerstown High School in 1936, and later attended Johns Hopkins University, where he studied drafting and aeronautical engineering.

He started his career in aviation by winning a flight scholarship from the local Junior Association of Commerce in 1941.

A year later, he graduated from the military's fixed aerial gunnery base in Texas and was commissioned as second lieutenant.

As a pilot in World War II, Mr. Saum totaled over 230 hours of combat flying in 50 P-38 Lightning escort and strafing missions over North Africa and Europe from 1942 to 1944.

He was decorated with Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with 10 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters.

Mr. Saum became a speed flyer in 1947, flying his stripped-down P-38 Lighting airplane called, "The Jill," the nickname of his wife, Dorothy, whom he married in 1945. She died in 2003.

"He just loved flying. He was passionate about it. And he was a generous, charitable man," his son Scott Saum said.

After moving to Toledo in 1949, Mr. Saum was a plant engineer at the Jeep plant, where he laid out an assembly line in the early 1950s.

He worked at Nordmann Roofing for over 30 years, where he was an executive vice president until retiring in the mid-1990s.

In his free time, Mr. Saum was writing his memoirs and doing watercolors.

Over the years, he has attended First and Washington Congregational Churches in Toledo.

Surviving are his sons, Scott and Steven; sister, Maxine Ringer; six grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday in the Ansberg-West Funeral Home, 3000 Sylvania Ave., where visitation will be after 2 p.m. tomorrow.

The family suggests tributes to a charity of the donor's choice.



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