In Memory of Charles “Chuck” Stone, Jr. (1923-2016)
Chuck’s life-long career in agricultural aviation began while he was serving in the Navy at Banana River on the east coast of Florida during WWII. Chuck would come home to Fort Pierce on weekends and work for J. R. McDaniel, first as an airplane mechanic, then a pilot crop dusting tomato fields.
When Chuck was discharged from the Navy, he bought a surplus Stearman. He received a Veteran’s discount of 50% and paid $250 for the airplane. Chuck took the airplane apart, installed a plywood hopper for dust and began working it at an airstrip on Okeechobee Road in Fort Pierce. On March 11, 1953 Chuck established Southeastern Aerial Crop Service, Inc.
During the following decade, Chuck hired pilots, added a variety of airplanes to the fleet and bid on contracts throughout the southern states and eastern seaboard. As the business grew Chuck realized the potential of the growing agricultural aviation industry. In February, 1964, Chuck attended the Mississippi Aerial Applicators’ Association meeting in Biloxi, Mississippi. From that experience, he began working on plans for a state association in Florida. With help and support from other applicators in the state, the Florida Aerial Applicators’ Association was established. (Later to become the Florida Agricultural Aviation Association.) Chuck was a founding member of the National Agricultural Aviation Association; and in 1972 he was instrumental in establishing the Southeastern Ag Aviation Association (now known as the Southeast AeroCultural Fair).
After working closely with Piper Aircraft in Vero Beach, Florida to develop the prototype for the Pawnee, Chuck purchased the airplane and became a Piper dealer in January 1968. In January 1978, Chuck became and Air Tractor dealer. Southeastern proudly continues that relationship with Air Tractor.
In 1992 the NAAA awarded Chuck the Agrinaut Award and in 2002 the Outstanding Service Award. The St. Lucie County Farm Bureau installed Chuck as a member of the Hall of Fame in 1998, and in 2009 the FAA presented to Chuck The Wright Brothers “Master Pilot” Award and The Charles Taylor “Master Mechanic” Award.
While Chuck was very humbled by these awards and acknowledgments, what meant the most to him was helping others in the industry. His influence and sage advice was important to many pilots and operators trying to make their way into the ag aviation industry. Since his passing there seems to be no end to the expressions of gratitude for Chuck’s support, encouragement and influence. These comments are proof of a life well lived.