Lt. Colonel Felix R. Csorosz, always known as 'Phil' to his friends and family, took his final flight at St. Patrick Hospital, Missoula, Montana with wheels up at 8:42 am on August 21, 2020. Phil was born in Lisbon Falls, Maine on April 3, 1928 to John and Anna Csorosz. The family lived near the center of town on Addison Street in a house built by his father near the old high school. He was the youngest of his family with two older brothers, Andy of Bath, Johnny of Lewiston and one sister, Mary (Lefebvre) of Portland, Maine. During his youth in Maine, he was an avid snow and water skier, played ice hockey and was an excellent ski jumper. He remained athletic even later in life. As a teenager, he was employed at the Worumbo Textile Mill. He graduated from Lisbon Falls High School in June of 1946.
Phil mentioned he was not sure about what career choice to make next. However, inspired by his older brothers who were veterans of World War II, he chose to follow in their footsteps and enlist in the military. What came next is an incredible story of service to his country. He left home on his own and enlisted in the Air Force at Fort Preble, Maine in October of 1948. He traveled by train and bus to finally arrive at Waco Field in Texas for aviation cadet pilot training in the AT-6 and B-25 aircraft. It was a long way from home in unfamiliar country but Phil pressed on. He told of many weeks drilling on the parade grounds, studying volumes of information on aerodynamics and marching in formation in the hot Texas sun. Near the end of training, he was chosen to become a drill instructor. This unit was also assigned to Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma. Phil graduated with an excellent record in September of 1949 as a second Lieutenant.
The next stop in Phil's journey was Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana. From 1949 to 1951, he was a pilot of the C-54 transport aircraft with the Alaska and Northern Pacific Operations. This involved many round-the-clock missions to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, across the Alleutian Islands and a southern course to Japan, Guam and the Phillipines in some of the worst flying conditions possible. Phil had many accounts of wrestling with the controls as the plane iced up in sub-zero weather and bucking typhoon headwinds with nothing visible through the windshield. Despite the danger, Phil always returned his plane and crew safely. God was surely his Co-pilot.
At Great Falls, Phil met Betty L. Johnson, a school teacher from Sandpoint, Idaho and recent graduate of Eastern Washington University. After several visits to her hometown, meeting her large family and riding an unfriendly horse, they were married in Sandpoint in June of 1951. Betty mentioned this was the time she also "enlisted" and they accepted the coming challenges together.
It was not long before the military had new plans for Phil. From 1951-52, during the height of the Korean War, he was assigned to Tachikawa Air Force Base in Japan as a C-54 pilot with Korea Airlift Operations. The primary mission was flying into Seoul in support of ground forces who had made an amphibious landing at Inchon. Capt. Csorosz returned stateside and was then stationed at McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, Washington. Phil now flew the C-124 Douglas Globemaster for Pacific Operations. During his vacations, he would drive across the country to Lisbon Falls, Maine or Sandpoint, Idaho to visit relatives in his Pontiac and Chevrolet station wagon.
In 1958, Phil and his wife Betty, crossed the Atlantic Ocean by ship with their daughter Kristine and son Paul. He was assigned to South Ruislip, England as an operations officer at the Military Air Transport Center for the North Atlantic region. Phil and Betty made many lifelong friends along the way. Their next stop was Rhein Main Air Force Base in Frankfurt, Germany from 1959-61 as a transport control officer for "MATS" where his second daughter Carolyn was born. The historic base is closed now but for decades it was the major command center for air operations in Europe.
Following Germany, Capt. Csorosz was sent to Andrews Air Force Base near Washington D.C. with the 89th Special Air Missions Squadron as pilot for the Lockheed Constellation, Boeing 707, and KC-135, transporting members of Congress, diplomats and foreign dignitaries. He was also the pilot for Air Force Two. He resided in Annandale and King's Park in North Springfield, Virginia. It was during this time that Major Csorosz was given the duty of flying to Cape Kennedy in January 1967 to retrieve the three Apollo One astronauts who died in a launch rehearsal for landing on the Moon.
Departing from Travis Air Force Base in California, the family's next destination was Yokota Air Force Base near Tokyo, Japan. Lt. Col. Csorosz was chief pilot of the Boeing WC-135 and Commander for the 56th Weather Recon Squadron. He was stationed for 2 years at Johnson Air Force Base in Iruma, Japan. Lt. Col. Csorosz departed Japan in June of 1971.
Phil was in the states for only a few weeks when the next set of orders arrived. First, he was sent to Jungle Survival School at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington. This was soon followed by assignment to Phan Rang Air Force Base in Vietnam as Commander of the 9th Special Operations Squadron, also known as the "Night Wings", with a primary mission of ground forces support, interdiction, visual and armed recon, escort and rapid reaction alerts.
Returning from Vietnam in 1972, Phil ended his military career at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma after serving as Commander of the 443rd Headquarters Squadron for 5 years. After 29 years, Phil had accumulated nearly 16,000 hours of flying time around the world and maintained a safety record of the highest standards. He had multiple aircraft ratings including certification for sea planes. He worked closely with his staff and teamwork was always top priority in the air or on the ground.
The following is a list of his awards and citations: The Bronze Star, United States Air Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Korean Service Medal, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon, Vietnam Service Medal, Korean Presidential Unit Citation, United Nations Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Air Force Outstanding Unit Award.
Phil received his college degree in Business Administration from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois.
After his honorable discharge and retirement in 1978, Phil began a new chapter as a civilian pilot flying Lear jets and Cessna Citations. He was employed as a flight instructor at Cessna Citation Jet Aircraft, Flight Safety International in Wichita, Kansas. Before moving to Missoula, Montana in 1984, Phil was chief pilot for the IBW Corporation in Laredo, Texas and then the Washington Corporation in Missoula, Montana.
Phil had many hobbies and skills. He played golf, tennis, chess and hiked the "M" trail at the University of Montana often continuing to the top of Mount Sentinel. Phil enjoyed music and played his guitar, ukelele and harmonica. He was an expert marksman and won many championships in trap and skeet. He kept records on family vehicles and maintained them in top condition. In the winter, he took pride in operating his snowblower. You could count on Dad to do the job right. If there was a problem, he would solve it. If there was a part that didn't exist, he would invent it. He approached everything with precision.
Phil is survived by his daughter, Kristine Csorosz of Missoula, his son, Paul Csorosz of Missoula, his daughter, Carolyn Csorosz Payne and her husband David Payne of Bountiful, Utah, his granddaughter Julianna Payne of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and grandson James Payne of Bountiful, Utah.
Uncle Phil had a fond relationship with many nieces and nephews from Maine and Sandpoint, Idaho. We also wish to thank his many neighbors in Missoula for their kindness over the years.
Phil lived a long and energetic life. He was active and productive until his passing on Friday morning, August 21, 2020. After a life of adventure and world travel, he made his last flight into the “wild blue.”
From Maine to Montana, we miss you Dad.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 68 years, Betty Johnson Csorosz, his parents, John and Anna Csorosz, his brothers, Andrew and John, and his sister Mary.
Funeral Mass will be held at 10:30 am on Saturday, September 12 at St. Francis Xavier Church located at 420 W. Pine Street, Missoula, Montana. A military honor guard ceremony for Lt. Colonel Csorosz will be held outside the church following the services. The Mass will be live streamed or may be attended with Covid restricted guidelines. For information, please contact Garden City Funeral Home website or call 406-543-4190. An honor guard ceremony will be recorded and posted online.
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