William Wayne Queen, 86, of Murphy, took his last flight on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019.
Wayne was born and raised in Marble but spent his life as a traveler, an adventurer and a daredevil. As a child, Wayne would watch the planes flying overhead and tell everyone that he was going to grow up to be a pilot.
In 1949, at the age of 16, he joined the Air Force and was sent to Korea, where he served as an airplane radio operator.
Later in his military career, Wayne switched to the Army and became an officer, a pilot and a flight instructor. He did three tours of duty in Vietnam. After he retired from the Army, Wayne went on to work for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as an operations inspector. He also flew search and rescue missions.
Despite his many accomplishments, Wayne was a humble man. Rather than talking about his Distinguished Flying Cross or his Bronze Star, he’d tell stories about the pet monkey he had in Vietnam or the many adventures he had while flying around the world. For example, he once flew his airplane under a highway overpass. When asked why, he replied “I just wanted to see if I could do it.” He traveled extensively and immersed himself in learning about other cultures, especially the people and the food.
He could talk to anyone about anything, and every stranger he met became a friend. He enjoyed laughing and telling jokes and tall tales, as well as getting into trouble, especially in the company of his brothers.
Wayne loved hunting and fishing and lived in Alaska for many years. He once caught a record 67-pound king salmon. Rather than mounting it as a trophy, he cooked and served it at the Queen family reunion.
Even though he left to see the world at a young age, Wayne’s favorite place was in a rocking chair on his mom’s front porch. He could often be found there, eating a glass of cornbread and milk. Whenever he was flying near Cherokee County, he would fly over various family members’ houses and tip his wings, which was a sign that someone needed to drive to the airport in Andrews to pick him up. Wayne loved his extended family and was proud of his Appalachian heritage and his family’s deep roots in Cherokee County.
Generous to a fault, Wayne often gave his money, belongings, time and effort to help others. He had no patience with people who were lazy, nor could he abide authority figures, politicians or preachers. He loved horses, small children, pretty women, old dogs and good whiskey, but not necessarily in that order.
Wayne returned to Cherokee County to spend his last days surrounded by the land and the people he loved. He leaves behind many friends and family members to mourn his passing and to find comfort in knowing that he has earned new wings.
Per his request there will not be a funeral, but a private family gathering will be held at a later date.