Dedicated to the Preservation of the
U.S. Air Force Helicopter History
John Phillip Cato, Major USAF, (Retired)August 27, 1942 – August 19, 2006
Onawa native, Major John P. Cato passed away suddenly on August 19, 2006 at his home in Spokane, Washington. The son of Phillip and Helen (Payne) Cato, he was born in Sioux City, Iowa on August 27, 1942. John graduated from Onawa Iowa High School in 1960 and immediately enrolled in Drake University. At Drake he participated in the Air Force ROTC program and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant upon graduation in 1965.
He immediately went on active duty and received his flight training at several different Air Force Bases.
He had a distinguished Air Force career flying all types of aircraft from large multi engine cargo planes and bombers to fighter planes and helicopters. During the Vietnam War he served three tours of duty flying both attack helicopters and rescue helicopter missions. After his first mission to Vietnam he volunteered for two additional tours. In addition, John received Special Forces training at Bases in the Panama Canal Zone and served on active duty in that area of specialty. He truly was a soldier of fortune and loved flying while serving his Country.
Upon his retirement from the Air Force in 1986 he indulged his passion for adventure and flying through employment with Era Aviation Service both in Hawaii and’ Alaska. He was an active member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles and the National Rifle Association. John courageously battled a polycystic kidney disease and was hopefully on course for a kidney transplant. However, it proved to be one battle too many. His desire was to be cremated and ashes scattered over areas of Alaska he had grown to love.
A loyal friend, a loving devoted husband and family man he is survived by his beloved wife, Carol Nachajski Cato of Spokane, mother-in-law Eileen Nachajski of Spokane, two brother-in-law’s, Robert and Michael Nachajski, cousins, Robert Payne, of Alamogordo, NM and John Ropes and his wife Mary Lou of Mason City, IA. Also, his faithful poodle companion “Buddy”.
The family suggests that Memorials in memory of John be made to the Monona County Veterans Museum, Onawa, Iowa.