Lieutenant Colonel Sidney J. Kubesch closed his final flight plan on Oct. 26, 2020, earning his ultimate promotion – Heaven. Or, as Sid would say, he “turned in his belly button.” Col. Kubesch passed peacefully in his sleep at his home, Good Enough Farm in Peru, Ind., surrounded by the loving hands of his wife, five children and loving extended family. He was a true American hero who lead an extraordinary life.
Born April 18, 1930 in El Campo, Texas, as the oldest of three children of Mary (Tannich) and Emil G. Kubesch, he was followed by brother, Robert (Bob) Kubesch (deceased) and baby sister, LaVerne (Kubesch) Lippman, presently of Lake Jackson, Texas.
As a young boy in rural Texas during the depression, he worked at the family grocery store, excelled in mathematics and music while also playing the bass violin in a local big band, delighting audiences to a “roaring good time.” However, one thing captured his attention and imagination more than anything else – watching airplanes soar through the sky. As a young man he picked cotton, earning enough money to pay for flying lessons, and seven days after his 18th birthday he made his first solo flight at Kerrville Flying Service. Sid coupled his pilot license with an engineering degree from Wharton College in Texas leading to 60 years as a pilot and a 20-year ground-breaking career in the United States Air Force.
From 1950 until 1970, Sidney was a pilot in the US Air Force. Before being stationed at Bunker Hill Air Force Base, he served all over the world, including an extended period in North Africa and Tampa, Fla. His Air Force career led the native Texan to Peru, Ind. where he met and married the farm girl of his dreams, after being set up on a blind date to attend a greased pig contest.
Sidney married Joanne Cole in 1962 at St. Charles Borromeo Roman Catholic Church. Joey and Sid started their family at Bunker Hill Air Force Base, with their first-born son, Kurt Cole Kubesch. A transfer to Montgomery, Ala., included the addition of daughter, Maryalice Williams. Then a stint at Strategic Air Command brought the birth of sons, James (Jay) and Joseph (Joe) Kubesch, in Omaha, Neb. There were Saint Bernard dogs as pets all along the way making for a big Kubesch family. The family would load their giant dogs into a Piper Aztec airplane and Sid would pilot the whole crew on vacations across the United States, but especially to his childhood home in El Campo. Throughout his life, Sid wrote weekly letters home to his parents until their passing.
Col. Kubesch served his country during the Korean War and the Cold War era and told amazing stories about his role during the Cuban missile crisis. Sid piloted numerous planes, including the Piper J3 Cub, Boeing B-47 Stratojet, B-25 Mitchell bomber, Boeing B-29 Superfortress, T-39 Saberliner and the Convair B-58 Hustler nuclear bomber. On Oct. 16, 1963, Sid piloted the “Greased Lightning” mission, flying the B-58 from Tokyo to London at speeds in excess of Mach 2. After, five in-flight refueling sessions and two pipefuls of good tobacco, then Maj. Kubesch had circled 8,028 miles - halfway around the world - in 8 hours, 35 minutes at an average speed of 938 miles per hour, setting a world speed record that still stands today.
Sid would forever revel in having seen two sunrises in one day due to the flights’ speed and course. This mission demonstrated the United States’ ability to deliver a nuclear payload across the world in minimal time and served to retain peace during the Cold War. Always a humble man, the celebrity status that went along with this world speed-record wasn’t always comfortable for Sid. But, he often told his children that he felt like “King for a Day” when the Air Force coordinated the crew’s media tour through New York City and London, including appearances on the hit TV shows “I’ve got a Secret,” “To Tell the Truth” and photo ops on the tallest skyscrapers. His honors include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross and in 1963 he was presented with the David C. Shilling Award for “most outstanding contribution in the field of flight.”
In 1970, Sid retired from the Air Force and settled on his wife’s family farms, Good Enough and Westleigh near Peru, Ind., where he managed the family businesses with his father-in-law, James O. Cole. On their 15th wedding anniversary, Sid and Joey added daughter, Polly Dobbs, to make their family seven. Sid often remarked how blessed he felt to have such a large family, because after so many years of straddling nuclear bombs, he wasn’t sure “an old guy like him had it in him.”
Over the years, he took great pleasure as an avid outdoorsmen, big game hunter and fisherman, always enjoying every opportunity to be afield in nature.
Survivors who will cherish the memory of this esteemed gentleman and patriarch include his wife of 58 years, Joey Cole Kubesch; his five children, Kurt Kubesch, Maryalice Williams (and son-in-law, Kent), Jay Kubesch (and son-in-law, Fermin Rojas), Joe Kubesch (and daughter-in-law, Leila) and Polly Dobbs (and son-in-law Steve); grandchildren, Audreyalice Warner (husband, Paul, son and Sid’s only great-grandchild, Rex), Jolie Kubesch, George and Peter Williams, Jonathan, Sidney, William and Cole Kubesch, Finley Dobbs and Julian (“JT”) Dobbs. Also, little sister, LaVerne Lippman; sister-in-law, Jean Kubesch and Sid’s nieces and nephews in Texas and beyond will always have special memories of Uncle Sid.
Sid’s Catholic faith was a hallmark of his life and guided the way he raised his family. The family is planning a private Mass of Christian Burial at St. Charles Borromeo Church with the Rev. Adam Mauman presiding and Fr. Paul Cochran con-celebrating. There are no plans for a public service due to pandemic health concerns.
In lieu of flowers, please support the Grissom Air Museum with donations to build the “Hustler Hut” - an enclosure to enshrine Sid’s B-58 supersonic jet for posterity. The Museum’s Hustler was based at Bunker Hill-Grissom Air Force Base during some of the hottest days of the Cold War, and your donations will help preserve this amazing piece of military aviation history and honor the life of an esteemed member of the group of pilots who flew such aircraft.
It’s possible that no man on earth was loved more by his family than Sid Kubesch. He didn’t say much, but he had a way with words, and could make a life lesson on a specific point with few words. Most importantly, those few soft-spoken words were always wrapped in his wicked sense of humor!
Sidney Jerome Kubesch was a true American hero serving to defend his country, upholding the values of democracy, devoted to his family, grateful for the wonder of nature and honoring the word of God.