NORMAN — Norman John Alvin Runge, 92, died Sunday, March 2, 2014, in Norman. He was born Jan. 25, 1922, in the parsonage of Zion Lutheran Church in Blackburn, Mo., to Ernest Heinrich and Dorothea Wilhelmine (Kammeyer) Runge. He was 12th of 14 children and grew up in Blackburn and Stringtown, Mo., (near Lohman) where his father was the Lutheran pastor.
He graduated from high school at Alma, Mo., and proceeded to Kansas City, Mo., where he worked at White Castle, then a tree company that did line-clearing, and finally North American Aviation Company in Kansas City, Kan.
On a city bus, he met Victoria Jane Stevens, a student at the Kansas City Art Institute. Their courtship included walks in Swope Park, where they dined on bags of White Castle burgers or scoops of fresh peach ice cream in Grapette soda. They married Aug. 10, 1942, at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Kansas City.
The very next day’s mail brought notice that Norman was to report for a military induction physical on Aug. 12. He entered the Army Air Corps and studied airplane and engine mechanics in Gulfport, Miss., Burbank, Calif., and Seattle. He was in training at San Antonio in spring 1943 when his first child, Norma Jane, was born.
After completing his schooling, he was sent to Guam, where he served in the 99th Repair Squadron in the U.S. South Pacific with the rank of staff sergeant, a crew chief and flight engineer on a C-46 transport. In spite of the anxieties of having to serve in a war zone, he remembered the South Pacific as an exotic and exciting part of his life.
Back home in January 1946, he was unable to accept a job as foreman of a tree trimming crew in Kansas City because of the severe housing shortage. So the little family moved to Oklahoma City, where Vickie finally located a converted chicken coop they could live in while he did line-clearing work. Soon, he signed on as a mechanic with Slick Airways in Burbank, Calif., and they moved into a newly built house in Bellflower, where their second child, Howard, was born.