Flying High at 94: Fairbanks WWII Vet Pilots Fighter Plane He Didn’t Fly During the War
He did, and they were married eight months later on Rahoi’s 21st birthday.
Vienna’s father gave their marriage six months, figuring his daughter, an only child, would pull out.
It never happened. Vienna settled in after a few months, Rahoi said, and they were never separated for more than a few days during the following seven decades.
Vienna died in Urban’s arms three days short of their 70th wedding anniversary on Jan. 3, 2010.
“We never had a fight,” he said. “We had a wonderful life.”
Following WWII, and with a commercial license in hand, Rahoi traveled to Fairbanks in 1947 in his Piper Super Cruiser.
The day after his arrival, he started flying people to Chandalar Lake, about 180 miles north of Fairbanks near the Brooks Range.
“Every time I flew, I would take a different way back to learn the country. I knew all the dog team trails and cabins,” he said, explaining that in case of an emergency, knowing where there was food, shelter and help meant survival.
Within a short time, Vienna joined him.
“We both have loved Alaska. She loved it from the beginning even though it was rough and challenging,” Rahoi said.
Together they raised three children here.
When Rahoi wasn’t flying for various air services, he was big game guiding near the Canadian border in what is now Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.
In addition to building Ptarmigan Lake Lodge, near the Alaska-Canada border, beginning in 1951 the Rahois were business partners in developing Lakeview Terrace in Fairbanks.
Rahoi sold Lakeview after Vienna’s death, but continues to fly supplies to the lodge in his Cessna 182.
“My doctor asked me recently when I was going to quit flying,” Rahoi said.
“I told him, when I can’t lift those oil barrels into the airplane anymore, then I’ll quit.”
(The 15 gallon barrels weigh 135 pounds each.)
Rahoi has outlived most of his contemporaries, but younger relatives and children of his friends know him well from legend and interaction with him.
“He’s always feisty and full of energy,” said Leif Wilson, 40-Mile Air director of operations in Tok. “He’s always got a project or a plan he is working on or doing.
“He’s always giving us good advice, especially because we’re pilots, and he’s been flying in this country for a long time, too.”
Wilson, like many others, has a great deal of respect for how Rahoi deals with people and problems.
“I’ve never heard Urban say anything negative. He always has a positive attitude, even if he doesn’t like something, then he’s trying to change it,” Wilson said.
His longtime friend and employee, Mike Dolan, agrees.
“I’ve seen people who have done less than admirable things to him, and he’s turned around and given them another chance.
“He’s probably the most no-nonsense man I’ve ever met. He is a man of his word and if he tells you he will do it, he will,” Dolan said.