Charles “Ozzie” Osborne Jr., 98, of Laurel Springs, a World War II fighter pilot, longtime printing operator at N.W. Ayer & Son advertising agency, and popular teacher and coach at Camden County Tech, died Thursday, March 17, of congestive heart failure at home.
Mr. Osborne dreamed of being a pilot when he was a boy and enlisted in the Army Air Forces in 1942 after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He made it through two years of intense flight training and piloted his P-47 Thunderbolt on 26 bombing, strafing, and aerial combat missions over Belgium, Holland, and Germany during the winter and spring of 1945.
In the years after, Mr. Osborne would recall on his birthday, Feb. 24, that he flew a mission on his 21st birthday in 1945 and wondered whether he would make it to his 22nd. His 410th Fighter Squadron received a presidential award in 1945 for its service.
“I wanted to be a pilot,” Mr. Osborne said in a 2018 video. “And the war came along, and it made it somewhat possible.”
Later, he supported the Millville Army Airfield Museum, where he had trained years before, and spoke there often at Veterans Day ceremonies and other events. He received a special ceremonial baton in 2015 that members of the Army parachute team had passed in midair and was awarded a Quilt of Valor in 2017 for his wartime service.
“He had such a passion for flying,” said his daughter Patricia. “He was so proud to represent his country.”
When the war ended, Mr. Osborne worked for 16 years in Philadelphia as a Linotype printing operator for the N.W. Ayer & Son ad agency. A longtime member and one-time president of the Laurel Springs board of education, he was interested in teaching and curriculum. But the war interrupted his college plans.
So, when Ayer & Son closed its Philadelphia office in 1970, he became certified as a print shop teacher and ran classes at Camden County Vocational & Technical High School in Sicklerville until 1990. He coached girls’ tennis and bowling and supervised the school’s chapter of the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America.
He also went to night school at Glassboro State College, now Rowan University, for 10 years to earn a bachelor’s degree in education.
Born on the kitchen table Feb. 24, 1924, in Laurel Springs, Mr. Osborne took his first airplane ride when he was 5 with his father in an open cockpit biplane. The family moved to Easton, Pa., for a few years, and he graduated at 16 from Wilson Boro High School before enlisting in the service.
He knew Barbara Ross from the neighborhood, and they married just as the war was ending. They had daughters Barbara and Patricia and lived for nearly 70 years in the same house in Laurel Springs. She died in 2010.
He told stories of flying his fighter plane over Laurel Springs and buzzing fishermen on the pier during his early training in Millville. He liked to play pranks on April Fools’ Day and rescued a cat he found at work.
“He had a quiet, energetic presence,” said his daughter Barbara. “Support-wise, he let me be me.”
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An avid golfer, Mr. Osborne worked the front gate at Pine Valley Golf Club for 30 years and was playing a round or two until only recently. He played tennis, followed the Eagles, and traveled with his wife to places in France at which he had been stationed during the war.
“He was a planner, a mover, and a shaker,” said his daughter Patricia. “He saw the good in everything, and he had a gentle spirit.”
In addition to his daughters, Mr. Osborne is survived by other relatives. Two brothers died earlier.
Services are to be held 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, April 1, at the Ora L. Wooster funeral home, 51 Park Blvd., Clementon, N.J. 08021. Funeral services are set for 10 a.m. Saturday, April 2, at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church, 433 Park Ave., Laurel Springs, N.J. 08021. Interment with military honors is to follow at Locustwood Memorial Park, 1500 Marlton Pike West, Cherry Hill, N.J. 08002.
Donations in his name may be made to St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church, 433 Park Ave., Laurel Springs, N.J. 08021 and the Animal Welfare Association of New Jersey, 509 Centennial Blvd., Voorhees, N.J. 08043.