Bob & Judy Gillette

When you meet Bob and Judy Gillette, it’s easy to imagine them sailing their traditional two masted teak ketch off the California coast, or tooling around the Midwest countryside in one of their vintage wire-wheeled Jaguars. Visitors have enjoyed Gillette’s warm hospitality after landing on their 2,400-ft turf airfield at Lakewood Lodge in northern Wisconsin, where Bob and Judy hangar their airplanes. Wisconsin winters don’t slow them down, as they have enjoyed their Maule on skis, and in the past spent time on snowmobiles, snowshoes and cross-country skis.

“Now we go north for our winters,” Bob says. North? “About five miles north of the Lodge to our home in town,” Judy adds. They purchased the old Stone Lake fire hall, and turned that drab gray building into their cozy home, installing coffered ceilings and filling it with memorabilia. There’s adequate shop space for Bob to work on his array of vintage autos – more than you can count on both hands. One, a 1960 XK 150S with right hand drive was owned by British actor Trevor Howard. “We like old things,” Bob confesses. Lakewood Lodge is on a gravel road, and Judy explains, “We prefer living in town most of the winter rather than drive on all that gravel. It saves me a lot of polishing.”

Judy, originally from Tillamook Oregon, and Bob, a native of Wisconsin, met thanks to their respective careers with United Airlines. Judy had tried office work in Portland after graduating from high school, but says, “Office work wasn’t fun,” so she applied as a flight attendant. “I took Newark, since no one else wanted it,” she added. Bob was a pilot initially based in Chicago, and it was fortuitous for them both when he got tired of digging his car out of snowbanks and bid for Los Angeles, where Judy was then based. They married, and lived for a time on “Blackguard”, the 40-ft Taiwan-built ketch that Bob had bought by then.

Ever since taking the stick of a J-3 as a kid, Bob knew he wanted to fly. “I was working nights in the development department for Woodward Governor Company in Rockford, Illinois. I went home, and thought about my friend having hired on at United. I could have just stayed in bed and gotten more sleep. We have chances in life where we come to a fork in the road. So I headed for O’Hare for my interview with United,” he says, and left a job he liked as machinist and lab technician. “In my rush, I forgot to put on a belt, so I spent the whole interview with my stomach sucked in and my suit coat buttoned so they wouldn’t know I was forgetful. I knew they wouldn’t want THAT in a pilot!”

Bob’s passion for learning and flying led to his 33 year United career with both recip and turbine ratings. He starting as Flight Engineer on the DC6, then Boeing 737 and 720; then First Officer on the 727. He stopped counting after reaching 18,000 hours all over the world. In 2000, he reached the mandatory retirement age of 60, but certainly kept flying. Gillettes have owned a variety of GA aircraft including Bob’s first, a Piper Vagabond; and more recently, a Luscombe 8A, and one-of a-kind Maule M5-200, still owned by an RAF supporter.

Judy earned her private pilot license, and enjoyed flying their Luscombe off their airfield. She retired from United after 32 years, when Bob retired.

Gillettes invite folks to come enjoy their facilities on the shore of Loyhead Lake. They added an RV campground in the pine trees with picnic tables, fire ring and electrical hookups. There are tie-downs for airplane camping. They host an annual fly-in and picnic there. The four-day event is an annual gathering of local EAA chapter 631 and RAF friends, and is a leisurely opportunity for folks to gather and spend time together.

Bob & Judy’s Fire Hall House

Submitted March 14, 2024
By Carmine Mowbray

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