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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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FAA Honors Fetterly For 50-Year Safe Flying Record

Issue Date: July 25, 2019

Peshtigo native Roger Fetterly, a retired Marine Corps pilot and Vietnam veteran, is still piloting planes at age 83. In June of this year he was honored by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award for 50 years of safe flying and dedication to aviation. This is the most prestigious award given to pilots by the FAA.

Currently a Town of Sun Prairie resident, Fetterly grew up on the Fetterly Century Farm on Hwy. W in Peshtigo and graduated from Peshtigo High School in 1954. Since he now owns the farm where he grew up and numerous family members live in the Peshtigo area, he is a frequent visitor.

Fetterly said his love of flying and determination to be a pilot began when he was a child. "I was given a wooden toy airplane, a B-17 Flying Fortress. Growing up in the 1940s during World War II, I dreamed of flying that plane someday."

He enlisted in the Marine Corps in the year that he graduated and began fulfilling his dream. He has been flying ever since, and has never lost his love for it.

He began primary flight training with the Marine Corps in 1957 in a T-34 Beechcraft. In 1958 he began flying helicopters. He eventually qualified in six fixed-wing types and six helicopter types in his military career.

That career culminated in almost 5,500 hours of flight time, including 733 combat hours in the Vietnam War (February of 1965 to October of 1965 and August of 1968 to September of 1969). Those tours of duty included 500 strikes/flight missions and 25 Air Medal awards.

"The thing that I am most proud of in my combat flying in Vietnam is that no one got hurt on my watch. If you flew with me, I got you where you were supposed to go, and I got you back. That was my biggest achievement!" Fetterly declared.  "It was a wonderful adventure. I wouldn't have traded it for anything else!"

He retired from active duty in the United States Marine Corps with the rank of Major in July of 1977, but didn't give up flying.

Now, at age 83, he continues to fly as part of the University of Wisconsin Flying Club, and recently received his civilian instructor rating. He has flown over 250 Young Eagles and continues to share his joy for aviation with others.

After ending his 23-year career with the Marine Corps Fetterly accepted a job with the Wisconsin Department of Administration in Madison and moved to Sun Prairie to be near his work.

He continues to live there to be near his children. Son Ross is a millwright who works on power plants lives in Sun Prairie, and daughter Jennifer lives in Madison and is associate editor of Sun Prairie Star.

Fetterly said he keeps up with family and friends in the Peshtigo area by frequent visits and by reading the Peshtigo Times. He still is a subscriber, and said throughout the years of his military career he's been reading the paper everywhere he went, including Korea, Japan, and Viet Nam.

Many friends and relatives live in the Peshtigo area. Sister Isabel Phillips lives in Harmony, and another sister, Marcella Nickoli, lived in Oconto for many years and now lives with her son in Green Bay. She taught at many of the Peshtigo area one-room schools, including the Red School and Fifrick School, and then taught at Peshtigo for a time before moving to Oconto. His parents were Clarence and Marie Fetterly.

Ancestors of both his parents came here from Canada in the very early days and were were survivors of the Peshtigo Fire. "We've been around the Coleman/Peshtigo area since its beginning," Fetterly declared.

The old family farm on Hwy. W in the Lower Sugar Bush area that Fetterly now owns was started by his Great-Great Grandparents, Phillip and Mary Fetterly, on cut-over land they purchased from the Peshtigo Lumber Company. They had moved to the area from Canada in 1861, and they and their half dozen children all survived the Peshtigo Fire of 1871. The farm is located south of Hwy. 64 and about half a mile south of the old Payne School and about a mile north of the Oconto County Line.

Joseph Breault, another of Fetterly's Peshtigo-area ancestors, also came from Canada, and he and his family also survived the Peshtigo Fire. They settled on a property about two miles east of Coleman. They started a lumber mill and other enterprises there and the area came to be called Breaultville. The first Catholic church services were held in their home there.

Fetterly said those great-great grandparents chose that area because the railroad was expected to come through it. When the railroad finally did come north the tracks went two miles to the east, through Coleman, not Breaultville, ""so Coleman grew up and Breaultville disappeared." They got burned out in the Peshtigo Fire about a year after they started their mill, Fetterly said. The Breault legacy is remembered. A nearby bridge has been named for Joseph Breault and at a family reunion two years ago a bronze plaque was posted there in his honor.


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Peshtigo, WI 54157
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