William (Bill) F. Mellberg of Park Ridge, Illinois | 1952 - 2017 | Obituary

William (Bill) F. Mellberg
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William (Bill) F. Mellberg

February 08, 1952 - April 18, 2017

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Bill Mellberg. Bill Mellberg was born in Chicago on February 8, 1952. He grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois, a Chicago suburb.  Son of the late Frank W. and Lorraine C.; Brother of John M. (Gail); Uncle of Allyson C. taylor (Jeremy) and John M. Mellberg.
Bill graduated with a B.S. degree in Business Administration from the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign. He then joined Fokker Aircraft USA, the famed Dutch aerospace manufacturer, as a marketing and public relations representative. Bill left Fokker to join Ozark Air Lines’ marketing staff in 1977. In 1979, he founded his own company, Flight Research, which was primarily involved with supplying aircraft parts and equipment to regional air carriers. During the economic downturn of 1980, Mellberg left the aviation industry to pursue what had been his avocation as a political humorist and professional speaker. (He first took to the stage while in high school.) Since 1981, Bill Mellberg has addressed hundreds of trade, professional, and corporate audiences throughout North America. He is known not only for his uncanny impressions of political figures, but also for his gentle humor and positive message. His personal philosophy has been compared to Will Rogers’ — mixing satire with patriotism. Mellberg has enjoyed the honor of performing at The White House for President and Mrs. Reagan on several occasions. In November 1991, he was made an Honorary Staff Sergeant by Commissioner Norman Inkster of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for his many appearances with that world-famous law enforcement organization (the only American to be so honored). Bill has been spoofing “the Presidents” on a weekly radio program in central Illinois (now called “The Obama Report”) since 1989. He has made many appearances on radio stations across the country, including Chicago powerhouses WGN and WLS. He also served as a regular guest host for a Chicago-based talk radio program. Bill Mellberg starred in two nationallybroadcast PBS television specials in 1992 and 1994 called “An Evening With the Presidents.” Mellberg is also known to aerospace enthusiasts as a prolific writer and author. His stories have appeared in magazines worldwide, including: Aeroplane, AIR Enthusiast, AIR International, Airliners, Airways, Exxon Air World, Aviation History, RCMP Quarterly, Sky & Telescope, United Airlines’ Hemispheres and Wings. He is the author of two popular books, both from Plymouth Press: Famous Airliners (1995) and Moon Missions (1997). The latter is a history of lunar exploration with a Foreword by Apollo 17 Moonwalker, Dr. Harrison H. (“Jack”) Schmitt. For an illustrated, personal eyewitness account of the launch of Apollo 17, see the link in the article description below. Bill still resides in Park Ridge. He was named an Outstanding Young Man of America in 1981, 1982 and 1983. In 1990, the University of Illinois Student Alumni Association honored him as a Distinguished Alumnus during its annual ‘Homecoming’ celebrations. Bill was also interviewed by Dr. David Livingston in a two-hour program which reviewed the development of commercial aviation as a historic model compared with “commercial” space: The Space Show: Commercial Aviation: A Paradigm for Commerical Space? With Dr. David Livingston, January 31, 2012, Topics: 1st hour – opens with a discussion of the early history of rocketry, including the 54th anniversary of Explorer 1, with comments about Wernher von Braun and Ernst Stuhlinger. It proceeds with an explanation of the development of commercial aviation and the mass markets which drove its expansion. An interesting historic discussion takes place with two callers: Richard Easton, whose father, Roger Easton, played a key role in the design of Vanguard and invented the Global Positioning System; and Craig Horton, an engineer with the Space Shuttle program for 30+ years. 2nd hour – Bill compares the problems that the ill-fated Boeing SST and the Concorde, suffered in a highly limited market that had to be heavily subsidized by taxpayers. He points out that real commercial space would develop more readily as an adjunct to servicing a permanent lunar outpost. Bill also talks about the reorganization of NASA into an agency strictly charged with human flight in deep space exploration as proposed by the Apollo 17 scientist-astronaut, Harrison H. Schmitt (see the Preface from Space Policy and the Constitution, or Essay No. 46). The Apollo 17 Launch: An Eyewitness Account by William F. (Bill) Mellberg. A memorable recounting of the father and son adventure of a lifetime, one which many of us would have liked to experience with our own dads. Bill takes us back to his student days to relive a front-row view of the spectacular night launch of America’s last Apollo mission. His story includes an unplanned encounter with the space-suited crew on their way to the Moon. [Click Here] for a 1.5 Mb PDF file of the story. Surveyor I: America’s First Moon Landing by William F. (Bill) Mellberg. Before the Apollo astronauts could explore the Moon, a series of unmanned lunar landers preceded them. Prior to 1966, the nature of the lunar surface remained a mystery. Was it hard or soft? Smooth or jagged? Five Surveyor spacecraft answered these questions and many more. AUS CoEditor Bill Mellberg’s father, Frank W. Mellberg, was responsible for the design and development of the lenses that gave the Surveyor landers their “eyes” on the Moon. In this article, Bill recounts his father’s role in the Surveyor project and describes the results obtained by the pioneering robotic Moon missions.