Sherm Booen, 'Mr. Minnesota Aviation'

  • Article by: KELLY SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 13, 2011 - 10:04 PM

He loved being in the air and on the air, and combined the two with his TV show, "The World of Aviation."

Richfield pilot Sherm Booen, whose weekly WCCO television show, "The World of Aviation,'' inspired generations of Minnesotans to look to the skies, died April 4. He was 97.

"He was simply Mr. Minnesota Aviation," said Noel Allard of Park Rapids, Minn., a longtime friend and director of the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame. "He got up every day and did something for aviation in Minnesota. There is no one before or after him that exemplified Minnesota aviation better."

Booen was a teenager in rural Glenville, Minn., when Minnesota native Charles Lindbergh captivated the world with his solo transatlantic flight. There were only a couple of airplanes in his small town, but growing up during the aviation boom cemented in him a love for flying that never faded.

"His interest in flight was intense," Allard said. "It never let up."

Eight years after his first plane ride, Booen learned to fly on a field near Albert Lea, Minn., where he worked at KATE radio. He continued his passion for flying and radio in 1942 when he served in the U.S. Army Air Forces as a radar technician and later with the Marine Air Reserve in Korea and Japan.

When he returned to Minnesota in 1952, Booen worked in radio at WDGY, then WCCO, and flew around the state to gather news. He then created "The World of Aviation," which lasted nearly three decades.

"It was ahead of its time," said a friend, Jim Bunker. "And it was purely his [show]."

Friends say Booen's love for flying was contagious, thanks to the TV show and a magazine, Minnesota Flyer, that he launched in 1960 and ran for 26 years. He also emceed hundreds of air shows, narrating with his rich, melodious voice.

"He was a man of all things and he was very much a celebrity," Allard said. "He basked in that and served the industry well."

Booen was inducted to the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2002. He served as director of the Minnesota Aviation Trades Association for 30-plus years.

"His efforts helped create an awareness about general aviation beyond people who fly," longtime friend Al Lange said.

When Booen wasn't on the air, he was in the air, flying his Beechcraft Bonanza. His sole grandchild, D'Ette Mullinix of Minneapolis, remembered traveling with him to fly-in breakfasts throughout her childhood. "It was a big part of our family's life," she said.

He was preceded in death by wife Mavis, daughter Boni Roberts and brother Shirley. Survivors include sister Mary Leone Sonksen of Albert Lea. Services are at 1 p.m. Friday at Richfield United Methodist Church.

Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141

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