Stumpff de Whitt, Roland Ellsworth Jose took silver wings February 11 with his wife, Marjorie, by his side. Riverside resident and longtime aviator Roldan E. J. Stumpff was a WWII B-24 pilot who participated in the bombing raids on the Ploesti oil fields. On his 13th mission his aircraft was shot down and he and his crew were held as POWs in Bulgaria. However, that is the beginning not the end of a fascinating story and flying career. Stumpff ended up flying for a total of 68 years, and added glider flying and soaring to his repertoire before finally folding his wings in 2010. He went back into Bulgaria within a month of his release as a POW to help the OSS track down and identify prison camp guards who mistreated Allied POWs. He also worked with the British MI5 and MI6 in Cairo. On VE Day, Stumpff celebrated by doing three barrel rolls in a B-25 at 800 feet.
This Renaissance man was also an accomplished artist, both with paint and stained glass, and was even licensed as a psychologist in the state of Florida for a while…but that’s another story.
He married his navigator’s sister, Marjorie (Llewellyn), in 1948. He is survived by her and four children: Roland G. Stumpff and his wife Kathleen Higgins; Jeffrey D. Stumpff; Karl D. Stumpff and his wife Lynn; and Margo L. Williams and her husband Todd. He is survived by seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, and was predeceased by two grandchildren. Roland was predeceased by a brother, Harry “Bus” Stumpff; and a sister, Dolores “Sis” Grundish (Stumpff).
Roland was born on March 3, 1924, in Emporium, PA. His mother, Aida Whitt de Flores, was a concert violinist and his father Harry G. Stumpff served in the Air Section of the US Army Signal Corp in WWI. While in High School Roland worked as a brakeman on the railroad, and tried to enlist after the attack on Pearl Harbor but was told he had to first graduate high school. After the war he attended Cornell, graduating in 1949 with a degree in mechanical engineering. As an adult he earned the Boys Scouts distinguished honor, the Silver Beaver. He worked for diverse companies such as Corning Glass; and ITT in Rhode Island, Europe and Oklahoma. He was also a gifted public speaker, cartoonist, and storyteller. Throughout his life he flew both professionally and for pleasure and was inducted into the Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame in 2012.
His family wishes to celebrate a life-well-lived. Calling hours will be February 17, 4-7 p.m. at Smith-Mason Funeral Home, Riverside. A burial service will be held February 19, 10:00 a.m. at Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Exeter. A funeral service will follow at 11:30 a.m. at Barrington Congregational Church, Barrington.