LACON — The traditional Father's Day fly-in or drive-in pancake breakfast at the Marshall County Airport will not be the same this year after the recent death of longtime airport manager and aviation consultant Neil Pobanz of Varna, officials said.
Pobanz, 73, died late Saturday at Proctor Hospital in Peoria of complications arising from earlier health problems. An informal gathering at the airport June 16, the evening before the breakfast, will remember a man whose honors included being inducted into the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame in 2006.
"He's had a lifelong commitment to aviation," said his son, Chad Pobanz, a corporate pilot for a Peoria company. "He's always been very generous in promoting aviation and getting others involved."
Besides overseeing the airport during an 18-year period that included planning a major runway extension that just got under way, Pobanz also had been the county's Emergency Management Agency director and delegate to the Heart of Illinois Port Authority Board for nearly a decade.
"Everybody liked him as airport manager, and he did a good job as (EMA director)," said County Board Chairman Dennis Bogner. "He's going to be really missed."
An Army veteran who later worked 32 years in civilian management at the Rock Island Arsenal before coming to Marshall County in 1994, Pobanz also was known and respected in wider aviation circles. For instance, as a technical consultant to the American Bonanza Society, a group of more than 10,000 owners of certain Beechcraft airplanes.
"Neil was an invaluable resource and tireless in his support of ABS and Beechcraft owners," the organization said on its website. "His reach went far beyond ABS; Neil was very active as an FAA Safety Team Lead Representative . . . as a ground school instructor and local aviation proponent; and as a volunteer each year at (an Experimental Aircraft Association event)."
One of his ground school students in 1994 was a young Lacon lawyer named Patrick Murphy. Now an airport board member and attorney for the facility, Murphy will be among the officials trying to find a replacement for a man who had mentored so many and done so much.
"That's going to be very difficult," Murphy said.