Paul Laurance Chell, Lt. Col. USAF, retired , died August 11, 2012 in his home in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida. He was a financial planner following his retirement from the Air Force in 1967.
He was born January 23, 1922 in Minneapolis, Minnesota to the late William B. Chell and Laura Sorkness Chell. Paul attended the University of Minnesota to study mechanical engineering and business administration. World War II intervened. He became an aircraft inspector and subsequently joined the Army Air Corps in 1942. He received his pilot license in 1943 and spent 19 months as a pilot and flight test maintenance officer in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater. During this time he flew 19 combat missions.
After the war, Paul left the Army Air Corps to return to University of Minnesota. where he met his wife of 65 years, Lois Krogh (Gretchen) Chell. He rejoined the Air Force to become one of the “Wright Stuff” test pilots at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. He was a project manager for the F-88 and F-101. During his flying career, he flew 64 different types of aircraft and 93 different models of airplanes. Paul was a life member of The Society of Experimental Test Pilots. He was a member of Institute of the Aerospace Sciences.
Paul was involved early on in the U.S. space project. In 1948 while a test pilot, Paul flew a team of Air Force project personnel to what was then the Banana River Naval Air Station to survey the area as a possible site for a rocket launch site. This was the start of what is now the John F. Kennedy Space Center. A 1975 Today newspaper column quoted him as saying, “They went back to Wright Field and made a recommendation that this be the rocket site.”
Paul later directed the Air Force Space Study Program in the middle and late 1950’s while stationed at Andrews AFB and the Pentagon. His involvement with research and development in the space program led to his last military assignment at the Air Force Eastern Test Range at Patrick Air Force Base in 1965.
Paul became a Rotary Club member in Severna Park, MD and joined the Indiatlantic Rotary Club in 1969. At that time he started the Rotary Tree Project which provided seedlings to be planted by churches and civic groups at churches, schools and other public property. In the past 41 years, the Tree Project has planted more than 58,000 trees in Brevard County, including 5,000 mangroves by the Indian River Lagoon.
In 1988 Paul started the Indiatlantic Rotary Book Program which shipped medical and technical books and professional journals around the world. More than 225,000 books and about 154,000 journals have been delivered to Rotary Clubs for distribution in 14 countries. A third project he started was to supply donated FPL telephone poles to provide osprey nesting sites.
Paul was a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow and was awarded the Rotary International “Service Above Self” award. In 2008, he was awarded the Indiatlantic Rotary Club “Rotarian of the Half Century” award.
Paul enjoyed golf at Suntree Country Club, where he and his wife, Gretchen, were early members. He was a talented musician who played the piano and organ. Paul also was a sailor, fisherman and crabber.
He is survived by his wife, Lois Krogh (Gretchen) Chell; three children, James Allan Chell, Tracy Chell and Gretchen Chell Cover; and three grandsons, Paul A. Khoury, Justin Khoury and Nelson Cover III. He has one brother, Pearce B. Chell, two nephews and a niece.
The family will have a private celebration of Paul Chell’s life. The family asks that donations be given to The Indiatlantic Rotary Club, PO Box 033134, Indiatlantic, FL 32903.