Richard “Rip” Peters Munger, 91, passed away Sept. 12, 2018 at his home in New Canaan. At his side were his wife, son and daughter. Rip died from complications caused by Inclusion Body Myositis and heart disease after enduring four months of hospitalizations, rehab facilities, and home nursing, all with grace and lack of complaint. His optimism, signature wink and the twinkle in his eye never left him throughout.
Born May 18, 1927 in Cincinnati to Evalyn Peters Munger and Herschel Munger, Rip knew from his first ride in an old barnstormer biplane at the age of 10 that he wanted to be a pilot. After retiring from United Airlines in 2001 at the age of 74, he was fond of saying that he had never worked a day in his life. Flying was his passion, and he was paid to fly the biggest and best airliners in the world. What could be better?
Rip’s charmed life extended to his military service, as he joined the U.S. Navy and arrived at boot camp on Aug. 14, 1945—V-J Day. His goal of becoming a Navy pilot, however, required the perseverance that became a hallmark of his life. When he first applied for the Naval Aviation Cadet Program, the examiner informed him that his vision wasn’t sharp enough and his blood pressure was too high, and bluntly said “You’ll never be a pilot.” Those words were devastating to young Rip, but bad news always had a way of rolling off his back, and being turned down just meant having to apply again. On his next try, Rip was told that not only was he too tall to be a Navy pilot, but that his overbite disqualified him as well (the 1940s oxygen masks wouldn’t fit properly). Refusing to take no for an answer, Rip got the last laugh on the examiner when he was accepted to flight school in Pensacola after spending time in the ROTC programs at Cornell and the University of Cincinnati. He flew for six years out of Whidbey Island, Alaska, and Hawaii, including active duty during the Korean War. In 1952, Rip left the service to begin a fifty year career with United Airlines, starting as a co-pilot on DC-3’s and ultimately flying captain on most of the aircraft types in United’s fleet, up to and including the Boeing 747.
Although aviation was his first love, Rip followed his passions in other directions as well. During the Cold War, he developed a concern for world peace and teamed up with three close friends (Charles Dent, Roger Enloe, and Al Teichmeier) to found the Business Council for the UN, which fostered education about the United Nations and its initiatives among business and labor leaders. Other projects included T+ (a gathering of UN Ambassadors and hijacked crew members in Montreal in 1971 to find a solution to the then-frequent world-wide airline hijackings); a project uniting surviving WWI aces of both sides in Paris to commemorate Armistice Day in 1981; and a successful endeavor to fulfill a dying wish of his friend Charles Dent by serving on the board of Leonardo da Vinci’s Horse, Inc., which completed an unfinished da Vinci masterpiece. ‘Il Cavallo’, a 24 foot tall bronze statue, was delivered as a gift to the people of Italy in 1999 and stands in Milan to this day. Rip also volunteered as a pilot for Project Orbis, a state-of-the-art flying eye hospital that treats patients and teaches doctors in underdeveloped nations.
One of Rip’s proudest contributions to the community was successfully petitioning to change local by-laws regarding age so that he could join the New Canaan Fire Company as a volunteer fire fighter at age 50. He completed the training and later served on the fire commission for 22 years.
Captain Rip met flight attendant Doris Ansley while flying a United Airlines DC-6 trip in May of 1965. Married on Oct. 7, 1967, they lived in Manhattan and New Jersey before moving to New Canaan at the end of 1970. In 1972, they became parents to their daughter Kendra, and a year and a half later their son Geoffrey’s arrival completed the family.
There never was a kinder, gentler, or more patient husband and father, and Rip’s family knows how lucky they have been. People who met Rip once would remember him with deep fondness for years thereafter. Those who knew him well couldn’t help but fall in love.
Rip is survived and terribly missed by wife Doris, daughter Kendra, son Geoffrey, daughter-in-law Cary, and his granddaughter Andora. He is also missed by his brother-in-law Clive, niece Susan (Tim), niece Melanie (Sam), nephew Bevan, great nephew Dexter and great niece Artemis. A memorial will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 17 at the Wilton Friends (Quaker) Meeting House (317 New Canaan Road, Wilton, CT 06897). All are welcome.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks those wishing to pay their respects to donate towards research on Inclusion Body Myositis, a disease that has received little funding and about which much is still to be learned. Donations can be made at www.myositis.org/donate/ by selecting the option for IBM Research.