ANDOVER, Vt. – It is possible that Nate Pond had nine lives. To those who knew him well, his lifestyle of always living on the edge would certainly have led them to believe he did. Unfortunately, after a stroke in August of this year, his charmed life began to fade. On Nov. 3, 2019, Nate died peacefully in his bed, in his own home, and in the company of Jill, his wife of nearly 50 years.
He was born in Cambridge, Mass., July 21, 1932, to Sebastian and Marguerite (Harkins) Pond. He was raised on a dairy farm in Woodbury, Conn., and attended Cornell Agricultural College, where he was on the wrestling and football teams, and where he earned a reputation for performing some outrageous stunts. After graduating in 1954, he spent four years in the U.S. Air Force. Even though his father had taught him to fly at a very young age, he was unable to become an Air force pilot due to his color blindness and instead went into aircraft maintenance.
Upon leaving the Air Force, Nate and his first wife moved back to the farm in Connecticut with their two sons only to find out his father had sold the herd and did not want him to go into farming. However, he was now using the airstrip on the farm for the new sport of skydiving as introduced to him by Jacques Istel, who had learned about it in France. It became so popular that Jacques started looking for a larger airport to start a full-time business. There was a perfect municipal airport available in Orange, Mass., which he leased in 1958, and with ex-U.S. Army Airborne jumper Lew Sanborn, plus Nate and his father, founded Orange Sport Parachuting Center. By 1960, Nate’s family had increased to four children. For 11 or so years, Nate was a jump instructor and chief pilot for the fleet of jump aircraft, and he managed to accumulate several thousand jumps himself.
Eventually, he decided he wanted to be a commercial pilot, so with money from the G.I. Bill, obtained an Airline Transport Rating. After his divorce in 1965, he married Jill Carey in 1970. He got a job flying the mail for Buker Airways based in Springfield, Vt. The two moved many times across northern New York as the company obtained various mail contracts before they settled permanently in Springfield. He started flying freight all around the northeast until Walter Fawcett came to the airport as the fixed-base operator in the mid-70s and eventually started Precision Airlines, a scheduled passenger commuter airline. Nate became their senior pilot and helped train many pilots who now fly for major airlines. He flew for Precision until it was sold and eventually bankrupted in 1993 or ’94. He continued to fly for various private and commercial outfits, including Rocky Mountain Airlines in Colorado. Nate was a natural and skilled pilot and his ability to fly through horrendous weather and dangerous conditions was famous.
In 1986, Nate and Jill bought a farm in Andover, Vt., where they raised a brood herd of Beefalo cattle and sold hay, and he was able to fly his small plane out of the long field at the back of the farmhouse. In addition to any job he had, Nate always found time to ski. For 35 years, he was on the Stratton Mountain Ski Patrol where he made some of his best, long-time friends.
All who worked with Nate over the years whether in skydiving, flying, skiing, or farming, were regaled with his famous stories that became more fantastic and exaggerated each time he told them. His co-workers followed his various real-life escapades with a mixture of amusement, disbelief, and admiration.
Nate was preceded in death by his parents, his sister Nancy Booth, and his eldest son Gary. He is survived by his wife, brother Larry Pond, sons Jeffry and Tim (Julie), daughters Tara Yohan (Buck) and Jenna Pond, daughter-in-law Diane Pond, 11 grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren, numerous nieces and nephews, and many, many kind and loyal friends.
A funeral service will be held at the Andover Community Church Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at 1 p.m. Burial to take place at the convenience of the family. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Vermont and New Hampshire Visiting Nurses and Hospice.