Flying Tiger Line Pilots Association
John Ristaino, a retired Flying Tigers B-747 Captain and a 40 year resident of Upland CA, passed peacefully in his sleep on July 17th, 2014 at Emeritus Memory Care, Corona CA. John was 86. He was surrounded by loved ones and the caring staff at Emeritus. John is survived by his wife of over 55 years, Carolyn N. Ristaino and three adult children. Son, John L. Ristaino of Key Largo, FL., daughter, Cleonice L. Ristaino of Sherman Oaks, CA, and son Sterling A. Ristaino of Upland Ca.
John was born in New York State to Mr. and Mrs. Gennerino Ristaino on May 29, 1928. John’s Mother, Cleonice later married John’s Stepfather Mr. Louis Morello. John grew up in Cromwell CT in the family home on Hicksville Rd. Here, John discovered his love of anything mechanical, whatever could take him faster with 2 wheels, 4 wheels, or in the air. It was also here he met his lifelong and childhood friend Victor Rook, with this pair many adventures soon followed. During the rationing and the war effort, there are stories of John driving his car around Cromwell without any tires and rims only tearing up the streets, in spite of the rubber shortage, the city relinquished and allowed him to have a set of used tires. He always had this certain way of getting things done.
His love of flying started at an early age and he acquired his own plane in his early twenties. He was certainly a fearless flyer and at one point ended up crashing his plane under a bridge in the Connecticut River. Luckily, he was rescued by neighbors and friends who saw the plane go down. He then repaired the plane in the family garage nearly burning down his father’s garage. As his son, one of his favorite quotes was “It’s not how hard you fall, it’s how fast you bounce back”
John went into the service at 18 and served his 3 years with the Army Air Core (Pre-Air force) He was honorable discharged with the rank of Sargent in 1949. In spite of losing a kidney and told he would never fly, he then graduated from Emery Riddle flying school. He was hired at Eastern Air lines in the early 50’s and met Miss Carolyn Rogers a Stewardess with Eastern. They were married in New York on September 13th 1956. They headed out to CA and like so many at the time were seeking the growing opportunities in the golden state of CA.
John was hired by Lockheed as a test pilot at Ontario Airport, he then purchased his first home in Ontario on Deodar St and their first son was born, John Louis Ristaino on Dec 17, 1957. A better opportunity was to be found at Flying Tiger Airlines and John was hired as a Pilot and Chief Engineer. Shortly after that, his daughter was born, Cleonice Lynn Ristaino, (Named after his mother) June 12th, 1959 and that he purchased his second home on Beverly Ct.
In the 1960’s John and Flying Tigers were doing extremely well. Bigger and faster, from propeller into the Jet Age this was John’s dream come true. His last son came along on April 9th 1965, Sterling Arthur Ristaino, named after his best friend at Flying Tigers Arthur Seymour.
The 1970’s with Flying Tigers could not be better, it was at this time he became a Captain. On many of his worldwide trips John would bring home many treasures and mementoes from around the world. A near fatal motorcycle accident almost killed him, but again…he bounced back.
In 1988 he retired from Flying Tigers as a Captain on the 747, but retired quietly is not what he had in mind. He then started purchasing property near Pioneertown CA, and a little movie ranch formally owned by Russell Hayden and Lillian Porter. More property was acquired on Skyline Road and he has also named a street after the company that served him so well, Flying Tiger Road. At the same time John was also elected as President to the Flying Tiger Retired Pilots Association in the 1990’s enjoying gatherings in San Diego and Santa Barbara. The highlight of this time was persuading Senator Barry Goldwater to appear as a surprise guest speaker at the Scottsdale Tigers reunion. John had a very persuasive personality.
John was still purchasing, and enjoying 4x4s, Trucks, and fast motorcycles, well into his 70’s ,enjoying the all the beauty of the desert life. Not much slowed John Down and he was always ready for the next adventure. In his high school yearbook, his caption was” Life was made for fun frolic” and his own quote was “I want to ride the fastest machine I can find” He certainly did that. My father had that ”Tiger Spirt” until the day he passed. John will missed dearly by loved ones, friends and neighbors.