Cecil E. Tackett passed away peacefully at the age of 94 on March 2, 2012, in Green Valley, Ariz. Born on July 1, 1917, Cecil and his family lived on a small farm outside of Parsons, Kans. When a lack of money forced him to drop out of community college, he joined the Army Air Corps in February 1941, graduating two months before Pearl Harbor. From then until the end of the war, he flew a variety of aircraft in various locations; eventually he was based on Saipan in the Pacific Theater where he piloted a B-29, the “Super Fortress,” on bombing runs across Japan. In spite of several harrowing flights, including one in which two engines on the same side of the plane conked out, Cecil always brought his crew and aircraft back to base safely. He left the Army in 1946 with the rank of major.
After graduating from Kansas State University with a degree in civil engineering, Cecil joined the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and worked on a variety of dams and irrigation projects across the Midwest. Most of these projects came in under budget which was a great source of pride to him. The largest and most ambitious was the nine year San Juan-Chama Project (including Heron Dam) in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico in which a series of tunnels were drilled through the mountains, bringing water from one side of the Continental Divide to the other side. Cecil loved this area and returned to live in Pagosa Springs when he retired.
He was active in the community, serving on the boards of directors of Citizens Bank, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District and the San Juan Water Conservancy District. He was proud to have been selected as the Grand Marshal of the Fourth of July parade one year. He enjoyed outdoor activities including fishing, hiking and hunting and was in the 1965 New Mexico Boone and Crockett for the largest black bear. He was also an accomplished woodworker and made beautiful vases, drums and large pieces of furniture from aspen, cherry and other woods.
Cecil was fortunate to have been married to two wonderful women. He was married to Maxine for 52 years until her death and to Barbara for 17 years until her recent death. He is survived by a sister, Mary, his daughters Susan and Nancy, Susan’s husband Mickey, three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, as well as his much-loved stepdaughters Candi and Mimi and their families.