Aviator served on D/FW board

Joseph Jan Collmer soared, whether he was starting a semiconductor business, fulfilling his civic duty or performing as a stunt pilot. His public side included multiple terms on the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport board, where he was elected chairman in 2006.

Friends and family, however, knew that his talents ranged from art to paleontology.

Collmer, 80, died Tuesday of myelodysplastic syndrome, a bone marrow disease, at his Dallas home.

A Mass will be celebrated for Collmer at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Rita Catholic Church, 12521 Inwood Road. A reception will follow at the Frontiers of Flight Museum at Dallas Love Field.

“He was just an amazing guy who seemed to be able to use so much more of his brain than any of the rest of us,” said Mark Palmer of Dallas, a friend of 25 years.

Collmer worked his way up from a semiconductor assembly line to the boardroom, a position he left to start his own company.

A former Navy pilot, he became a stunt pilot after enjoying an air show. Palmer began learning the breadth of Coll-mer’s talents as the two toured with Collmer’s Fina-sponsored airplane.

Once, killing time between air shows in Midland, Collmer kicked the dirt and uncovered and identified a shark’s tooth, “just because he knew what to look for,” Palmer said.

Collmer’s knowledge of paleontology was part of his passion for science and nature, said his daughter Sheryl “Sherry” Collmer of Plano.

“He was a fossil hunter. He knew a lot of the river beds in Texas,” she said. “He could tell you what age of prehistory they came from.”

Collmer was also a prolific and accomplished artist. “We have paintings and drawings by the hundreds,” his daughter said. “He did it for his own enjoyment, but he was very good at it.”

BorninDallas,Collmergrew up watching airplanes at Love Field. He was a1952 graduate of Jesuit High School in Dallas, where he was a right fielder for the baseball team. In 1954, he earned an associate’s degree in science and engineering from Arlington State College, now the University of Texas at Arlington.

Collmer was 19 when he joined the Navy in June 1954. He became a fighter pilot and made his first aircraft carrier landing in April 1955, eight months after his first airplane ride. He flew a number of aircraft, including his favorite jet, the Vought F-8 Crusader.

In1956, he married Suzanne McKevitt.

Collmer continued to fly for the Navy after four years of activeduty.HeusedhisGIbenefits and money as a Navy Reserve pilot to attend night classes at Arlington State College. During the day, he earned $1.40 per hour on the Texas Instruments semiconductor assembly line.

In 1960, he joined Varo Inc., where he helped start the company’s semiconductor manufacturing business in Garland.

In January 1963, after five years of night school, he received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a minor in physics from Arlington State.

He held several management positions at Varo, where hewaselectedpresidentin1976. Collmer left Varo in 1978. The next year, he started Collmer Semiconductor Inc., which became High Voltage Power Systems Inc., which he sold in 2005.

About the same time that he launched his business, Collmer attended an air show in Lancaster. At first, he was inspired to become a radio-controlled airplane hobbyist.

“Then I thought, why do that when I could be flying the real thing?” he recalled in 2000.

He excelled at stunt-flying lessons and performed in his first air show in1980 in El Reno, Okla. In 1996, he dedicated a new runway at D/FW Airport, cutting the ribbon with the propeller of his plane as he buzzed by, hugging the ground.

In the 1980s, Collmer attended Southern Methodist University, where he studied for a master of business administration.

He served on the D/FW Airport board from 1987-91, 1994-98 and 2004-08.

With Kay Bailey Hutchison and Bill Cooper, he founded the Frontiers of Flight Museum at Dallas Love Field. He was president of the Frontiers of Flight and served on the board of the History of Aviation Collection at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Collmer flew his last air show inMay.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Collmer is survived by two other daughters, Kathryn Scharplaz of Minneapolis, Kan., and Deborah Collmer of Salt Lake City; a brother, Robert Collmer of Royse City; and two grandchildren.