Amidst the hussle and bussle of the California Air Show, a gala program was conducted on October 1st, celebrating and honoring the life and service of the First Blue Angel, Butch Voris. Butch Voris made a symbolic arrival aboard the Blue Angels C130 transport aircraft, affectionately known as Fat Albert. As he deplaned, Butch was flanked by current and former Blue Angel Team members and accompanied by Rear Admiral Steve Turcotte.
With over 500 people in attendance, Jim Vanderzwann, the master of ceremonies, introduced a range of speakers that inclued Harry Wardwell, Executive Director of the California Air Show; RADM Steve Turcotte, USN, Naval Aviator; CDR Russ Bartlett, USN, CO U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Team (The Blue Angels); Major Stephen Will, Canadian Forces, CO Snowbirds; Hank Nothhaft, Navy History Buff; Robert Wilcox, Author of Butch Voris’ Biography “First Blue”; Art Siordia, Aviation Artist; and Wayne Handley, noted aerobatic performer.
Besides the current Blue Angel Team, the Canadian Snowbird Aerobatic Flight Team and a significant number of former Blue Angels attended and participated in the ceremonial festivities. Al Taddeo, the other living member of the first team attended, along with Dusty Rhodes, the third team leader of the Blue Angels. Russ Reiserer, who was inducted into the Navy with Butch and a noted WWII Navy Ace also was on hand. Other former Bosses of the Blue Angels in attendance were Zeb Knott, Bob Aumack, and Denny Wisely. Other former team members present were ,Nello Pierozzi Herb Hunter, Bill Rennie, Doug McCaughy and Dayl Crow. RADM Winston “Mad Dog” Copeland, USN (retired), who’s Air Group was the subject of an earlier Wilcox book, attended as well. A huge, striking painting by Art Siordia, depicting many elements of Butch Voris’ remarkable life was unveiled as part of the ceremony. The title of the painting is “The Boss on Point”.
In a humorous incident during Butch’s storied Naval flying career, he had to resort to a large football helmet painted yellow since no flight helmet would fit him. Butch was presented an exta large Blue Angels Flight Helmet by the current Blue Angels team so he wouldn’t have to resort to these measures in the future. There is a photograph of Butch in “First Blue” with his football helmet which earned him the nickname “Old Yellow Hat.”
Nearly 500 copies of “First Blue” were available for sale at the Air Show and sold out in a short period of time. Lithographs of Art Siordia’s painting of Butch were also a popular item.
This event was an amazing and appropriate kick off of “First Blue”. Many photographs of the Weekend’s happenings can be found in the Gallery Section of FirstBlueAngel.com under First Blue Launch. Any one who can provide the names of additional former Blue Angels who were in attendance, please send them to Hank@firstblueangel.com so they can be included in the list of attendees.