Bryan Moon retired from Northwest Airlines and forged an encore career as an “MIA hunter,” whose expeditions to find crash sites of World War II aircraft and missing soldiers earned him an invitation to the White House.
For two decades, Moon organized missions to places such as Papua New Guinea, China and Romania, where he and his crew discovered the remains of several hundred soldiers.
Moon was also an accomplished artist and a global adventurer whose travels took him to the North and South Poles, a Kenyan wildlife preserve made famous by the film “Born Free,” and a Pacific sailboat journey to Pitcairn Island, where he lived with descendants of mutineers chronicled in the literary classic “Mutiny on the Bounty.”
Moon, 87, died Nov. 28 in Sarasota, Fla., where he moved about five years ago.
“The man was larger than life,” said Curt Hills, a longtime friend in Rochester and board member of MIA Hunters, Moon’s nonprofit. “He had so much to give.”
Moon was born Jan. 13, 1928, in Southampton, England. When he was about 11, he was sent to live in rural England — as were more than a million other children — to avoid Nazi air raids.
Moon later joined the British Royal Air Force, and then graduated from the Southampton College of Art. After advertising stints for the British Aircraft Corp. and Aloha Airlines in Hawaii, he was hired by Northwest Airlines in 1968.
With a flair for promotions and design, Moon was named vice president of advertising. His assignment: Redesign the airline, from signage to office supplies to ground equipment.
“He was the creative genius at Northwest,” said Walt Hellman, former public relations manager at Northwest. “He set the look of the airline for a number of years — the color scheme, the design on the airplane, the advertising program.”
Moon stayed with Northwest 20 years, making a home in Edina with his wife and two sons. Cicely Moon, his wife of nearly 60 years, died in 2011.
“Retirement” in 1987 allowed Moon to pursue his passions of art and adventure. He earned a pilot’s license at age 70 and traveled extensively with his son Chris on often-risky adventures, his family said.
An early expedition took them to Kenya to search for the burial site of author and conservationist Joy Adamson, who penned the novel “Born Free,” said Chris Moon. Later, Moon’s crew searched for the remains of the “Doolittle Raiders,” who flew a 1942 bombing mission over Japan and tried to land in China. They eventually located three bombers, and in 1992 Moon brought five elderly Chinese who saved American crew members to Minnesota to meet some survivors. They received a standing ovation at the Legislature and an invitation to the White House.
Soon, people across the country were asking Moon to find lost loved ones. Using his own funds and often putting personal safety at risk, Moon and a small crew would travel to the country where the soldier’s aircraft was last located, hire scouts to find elders who might recall the crash location and then search, said Chris Moon.
The MIA hunters would photograph the site, mark coordinates, record aircraft ID and forward all of it to the POW Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii, he said.
Moon was preparing for another trip next spring, said his second wife, Donna Moon. Son Howard described his dad as “an honest, generous person who did things out of the box.”
Moon is survived by his wife, Donna, in Sarasota; sons Chris in Fort Myers, Fla., and Howard in Edina; brother Eric in Florida, and several grandchildren.
A memorial service is scheduled for Jan. 8 at Washburn McReavy Edina.