Loren “Jake” Jacobson grew up on his parents’ dairy and crop farm in Ostrander, Minn. — elevation 1,345 feet — but always felt most at home in the sky.
He was hit with the flying bug early on, family members say. On the way home from childhood trips to Mayo Clinic Hospital, where his mother was receiving treatment, he used to plead with her to stop at the nearby Rochester municipal airport to watch the planes take off and land. More often than not, she relented.
Relatives say that love of flying never left Jacobson, who eschewed the family business to get his pilot’s license.
Jacobson, who spent a lifetime in the cockpit and was among the founders of Sun Country Airlines, died Sept. 30 of lymphoma at Mayo Clinic. He was 85.
Even in his final weeks, he showed a genial toughness that dates to his farmhouse youth, said one of his daughters.
“His dad was that way, very hard, very demanding on him,” said Katherine Andreasen, adding that Jacobson always remained a source of love and guidance. “Farming’s a tough life, and you do a lot of yelling over tractors — that didn’t change once he left the farm.”
After moving his family to Florida in the late 1950s to attend flight school, Jacobson landed a succession of pilot jobs at Buckeye Pipe Line in Pennsylvania, Sears, Eastern Airlines and Braniff International, then the nation’s eighth largest airline. But when Braniff went bankrupt in 1982, he and 1,300 pilots found themselves out of a job.
While some former colleagues went to work for other airlines, Jacobson and a group of fellow laid-off pilots and stewardesses — led by Jim Olsen, a former Braniff captain — started tossing around the idea of starting their own airline. And so Sun Country was born.
Sharlene Beisell recalled visiting her brother at his Rosemount home and marveling at the audaciousness of their plan.
“They started Sun Country Airlines in the living room of his home,” she said. “The living room had paper work all over it and for six months we couldn’t touch anything.”
On Jan. 12, 1983, less than a year after Braniff went under, the new airliner’s first Boeing 727-200 landed at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Nicknamed “Alpha Fox,” the 170-seat trijet made its maiden flight a few days later, taking a plane full of passengers from Sioux Falls, S.D., to Las Vegas, a popular Sun Country destination even in those days.
Jacobson later married another Sun Country co-founder, flight attendant Judy Peterson, though the two divorced seven years later. That was his second marriage, after wedding Byrene Lowman in 1953. His third wife, Mavis, with whom he crisscrossed the Midwest as they attended polka festivals, died in February 2017.
Jacobson stayed with the company until his retirement in 1993, mostly flying DC-10 aircraft as Sun Country grew from a scrappy low-fare upstart to a regional player that now serves 47 destinations throughout the Caribbean, United States, Mexico and Costa Rica.
Funeral services are planned for 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, 418 Sumner St. E., Northfield.
Besides his sister and daughter Katherine, Jacobson is survived by daughters Lorene and Sharla, stepchildren Becky and Brent, and numerous grandchildren, step-grandchildren and great-grandchildren.