Col. Stephen L. Bettinger (USAF retired) passed away peacefully at home in Kirkland WA on December 4, 2010. He was 86 years old. During his final year Steve’s family and friends became the focus of his life. His Prayers and his Faith increased as he prayed for his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. On Thanksgiving Day twenty members of his family gathered around him for the last time to hear him say “Bless us O Lord, for these thy gifts,” his blessing for the Thanksgiving meal. Steve’s joy was apparent as he asked to hold his newest great-granddaughter three months old and to welcome to the family his grandson’s new wife. Steve was well known and loved by many.  The attached bio tells the story of one of the world’s greatest fighter pilots, considered by some to be one of the best combat aviators ever.

Stephen is survived by his wife, Marilyn (Lynn) Logsdon Bettinger, and his children, who all live in the Seattle area, sons Karl, Stephen, Bob, Tom and John, and his daughters Mary Gibbs, Catherine Gardner and his wife’s daughter Illana Barnert, who lives in California. He is also leaves19 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren.

The Bettinger family invites you to participate in the funeral plans listed below.  If you wish to send flowers, you are welcome to send them to Barton Family Funeral Service for display during the viewing and at the funeral mass. Perhaps in lieu of flowers you would like to make a donation to The American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 22718 Oklahoma City, OK 73123. If your interest is in children and education, consider making a gift of money to Stephen and Marilyn’s favorite charity, a Catholic Boys School in India. Checks can be made payable to: “Salesian Missions” with the memo line specifying “Fr. Leslie, sdb, Rector, in Alirajpur, Madhya Pradesh, India,” and mailed to Selesian Missions at 2 Le Fevres Lane, New Rochelle, NY 10801. Over the years Stephen and Marilyn have had direct contact with the mission school through her cousin Judy who works as a volunteer at the school.

Viewing Vigil:  6pm to 8pm Thursday, Dec 16 at Barton Funeral Home Kirkland.


11630 Slater Ave NE, Suite 1A
Kirkland, WA 98034

Funeral Mass: 11 am Friday, Dec 17 at Holy Family Church Kirkland.

A reception will be held immediately following the mass in the Parish Center.


7045 – 120th Ave NE 
Kirkland, WA 98033

Cemetery Burial: 2:30 pm at Sunset Hills Memorial Cemetery Bellevue.  Full Military Honors will be rendered including a Jet Fighter formation fly over.


1215 145th Place SE
 Bellevue, WA 98007


COLONEL STEPHEN L. BETTINGER was born April 28, 1924. in Newark. New Jersey. He enlisted as a Private in the US Army Air Force in June 1942. After flight training, he was awarded his silver wings and commissioned a Second Lieutenant on 3 November 1943.

WORLD WAR II COMBAT: He flew the P-40 aircraft and then trained in the P-47 Thunderbolt. He joined the 12th Air Force, 57th Fighter Group, in Italy and Corsica, where he completed over 100 missions as a fighter-bomber pilot. He was credited with shooting down one ME·109 German fighter.

KOREAN WAR: Numerous fighter assignments followed until he volunteered for the Korean War, where he flew with the world famous 4th Fighter Wing, out of Seoul, Korea. Colonel Bettinger flew 95-1/2 missions and shot down five MIG-15s, probably destroyed another, and damaged two more MIG-15s. This made him the 39th and last JET ACE of the war. Unfortunately, he was shot down and became a prisoner of the Chinese during the closing months of the war.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: Making Jet Ace, followed almost immediately by a high speed bailout going straight down, with the aircraft blowing up at the same instant as bailout was initiated.

DECORATIONS: Colonel Bettinger was awarded the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Air Medal, Purple Heart, Commendation Medal, POW Medal, the French Croix-de-Guerre, and the Korean Chung Moo Medal with Gold Star, personally presented by President Sigmund Rhee of the republic of Korea.

RETIREMENT: After thirty-one years with the USAF, Colonel Bettinger retired in January, 1973 in Kirkland, Washington. His deceased first wife Elaine was from Trinidad, Colorado. They had eight children. Seven reside in the Seattle area and one little girl is in heaven. In his retirement Steve served as a Probation Counselor, as a Eucharistic Minister for Holy Family Church in Kirkland, and worked with alcoholics and drug addicts on their rehabilitation. In June of 2003 he and Marilyn (Lynn) Logsdon were married.

HOBBIES AND OTHER INTERESTS: Steve liked to fly, hunt, fish, ski, and jog as a younger man, and has twenty-five sky-diving jumps to his credit. He gave motivational talks on aviation in general, and the USAF in particular, to schools at all levels from grammar school through col1ege. He participated as narrator at air shows, and made guest appearances on local TV.


  • Crystal Pomeroy says:

    I met Steve while working at PacMed when I lived in Seattle. He was one of those people I thought of often after moving away.It was an honor to be in a position to provide a service to veterans like himself. His stories were many. His love of his wife, family and flying always shone through. When one of my then toddler daughters was in the office he treated them with respect. The warning to never have three because “there’s always one loose somewhere” was heeded.(Then followed a Frankfurt Zoo story.)Thank you for sharing your husband/father.

  • Susan Martin says:

    I had the pleasure and honor of not only knowing this man but being his ‘daughter in law’ for a couple of years. When it came to ‘big personality’ he took the prize. I called him ‘Colonel” all the time. He and I clicked instantly. He could always be counted on to tell a joke, be it corny or not…he was funny. I know he will be missed by all of his wonderful children and grandchildren and possibly great grand children. Colonel “B”…I know you will be giving the Angels flying lessons and inspirational pep talks when needed. You are going to be sorely missed.


  • Bob Granley says:

    Wow…I am so sorry for the family’s loss. We all lost a great figure in our lives with Steve’s passing. I have had the privilege of knowing Steve since I was 9 years old. He was a larger than life figure to me…and my hero. When you look at that picture does that not epitomize the “fighter” jock of the day? Inspired many Granley’s to join the Military…myself included. He had this ability to suck you into the stories he was sharing. Passionate and funny…he was a master story teller. He always captured us. I have to share a few personal; things that Steve did for me and with me that were significant events in my life. Steve was my sponsor for my confirmation at Holy Family. To be able to share my wedding with Steve, Elaine and my destroyer’s ships officers At Royal Roads Military academy. Steve in full mess kit and a chest full of “I did this for you” medals…speaking to my fellow Officers. That was special. A few years later I was able to bring a destroyer into Possession Sound off of Everett…launch a life boat and row ashore to pick up Steve. He was able to sail with us as I trained Junior Officers during a Nav training phase. I was so proud to share this with him. He inspired me and made me want to be a better person. Thank you Steve for taking the time to care…I will miss you.

    Captain Bob Granley

  • John Bettinger says:

    Dad made everyone feel special. His effect on everyone he met was always unique! He was quite the character and if you didn’t know he was the “world’s greatest fighter pilot”, it only took about 1 minute for him to let you know. Tom Cruise’s ego in “Top Gun” pales in comparasion. The world lost a good man.

  • Jim Geuin says:

    I didn’t meet Steve and his WWII compatriots until 2008 in Branson, Mo. It was a real find for me when I found the 57th Fighter Group reunions. My Father was SSGT Percy Geuin and served as a Crew Chief for the 66th Fighter Squadron until he died on June 14th 1944 in Alto, Corsica. I loved listening to Steve’s stories . . .being a fellow Catholic, some had special meaning to me. One of my favorite ended with him writing his Mother and asking \Mom, can I fly airplanes?\ I was disappointed the I didn’t see him in Dayton this year, but his memory will long be with us. Personally, I opted for a much milder form of Service to our Country . . . 24 years in the Submarine Service.

  • Cheryl Dart says:

    The Museum of Flight, home of the American Fighter Aces, was pleased to have the Colonel speak on several Fighter Ace panels. He was always impressive and had a great story to tell. We will certainly miss him and the other fighter aces who are passing at a rapid rate. They will all be remembered here at the Museum in the Personal Courage Wing and at the Dahlberg Military Aviation Center.

  • Don Everly Smith says:

    Steve always had a way of standing out in a meeting, in a crowd or in the clouds – as some MiG pilots found out the hard way. At WWII reunions of the 57th Fighter Group, his flying (and other) stories always stood out as special. I heard about his famous ace earning mission in Korea so many times I think I could tell it almost verbatim, but never so colorfully as he could.

    We missed him in Dayton this year and will miss him from here on out, but i know that he will still be standing out in the clouds — now of the heavenly kind.

    Thanks for your service and for being such a stand-out human being,

    Don Everly Smith
    Commanding Officer: 57th Fighter Group & 66 Fighter Squadron

  • Colleen says:

    Wow Dad you’ve finally made the ultimate flight. I’ll never forget when I met all the Bettinger’s in 1971 Trinidad, CO at grandma Twyman’s while pregnant with Odin – you were then and even now a figure larger than life. I will also never forget the dinner we had in Bellingham with Pappy Boyington and Bud Granley playing the piano… Thank you for accepting me as your daughter-in-law even after Mom passed who I was very very close to. Thank you for being the best granddad in the world to my children! Throughout all these years every time we met there were tears of separation and tears of reunion. I am so glad we had that last conversation. Everything has come full circle and now there is a new generation of Bettingers to carry on. We are all proud of the service you have done for our country but more than that, grateful for the lessons you have taught us all just by being you. May you rest in peace at last with your beloved Elaine. See you at the fly-over. With love to the family, Colleen

  • David Schy says:

    Colonel Steve was the epitome of the American spirit. He was tough, sweet, funny and fiercely dedicated to our country, and to those he loved. I have enjoyed his friendship and trust since the day we met. My sympathy goes out to all, he was one of the most unique men I have ever had the privilege to know.

  • Nalani Hadfield says:

    Karl, it’s been a very long time, but I remember meeting your dad at your family’s home.
    Of course, I had no idea how lucky I was to be in his presence. WOW!
    Oddly enough, I lost my dad on December 4, 2006. I know there’s not much you can say to make it feel okay. I can tell you that time has helped a bunch. After 4 years, the memories come with more smiles than tears.
    I’m thinking of you now and will be on Friday as well. God Blessed your family with a wonderful Dad!

  • Laurie Cameron McGee says:

    I had the previlege to live across the street from Steve for a few years. He and his good wife Elaine invited my family to dinner the day we moved in and made us feel welcome in the neighborhood. My dad still talks about him. My heart and prayers go out to the Bettinger family. He’s with Lisa now. I’m sure that was quite the reunion.

  • Andrea Liggett says:

    I had the honor of knowing Steve through the church where he was very involved. He was a great guy. He liked to practice German with me and we had wonderful times going to Costco to shop for those in need. He’d fill up 2 shopping carts. He helped a lot of people with those trips. He let you know he was a great fighter pilot early on but reading his obit I see that he had an even more impressive life than I realized. Rest in peace Steve. You were one of a kind and will be missed.

  • John Cameron says:

    In the early to mid 70s my wife Bonnie our two daughters Laurie, Lisa & I were across the street neighbors with Steve, Elaine and family in Kirkland Washington. Always good friends & someone we could reply on. We sharded many good times & a few not so good. Unfortunately we lost contact through the years but never the appreciation or love for our good friends and neighbors

  • Liz T says:

    I heard fighter jets today and thought it sounded just like the Blue Angels when they fly so low over the Sunset Hills cemetery in Bellevue. Five minutes of Internet sleuthing brought me to this memorial. I honor the memory of the Colonel today, and will remember him there on Memorial Day. I hope his family and friends will come together on that day.

  • Sharon O'Brien says:

    Colonel B was an inspiration. He was well loved and will be missed. The Bettingers are treasured part of my childhood and I wish them each comfort and peace.

  • Vesta Elaine Bettinger says:

    When I was a little girl around 4 or 5 years old, I was hungry in G’ma and G’pa’s kitchen & told G’pa I wanted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Every time, his reply was, “POOF! You’re a…..Peanut Butter And Jelly Sandwich!!” and I’d cry, “NOOOooooooOOOOOoooooo, I WANT a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.” And again he would say, “POOF! You’re a…..Peanut Butter And Jelly Sandwich!!”
    I also learned that the Easter Bunny always brought lots of $money$ for everyone – little guys with hammers made the noise of a car’s engine – if you were a little mouse, you had to watch out or you’d end up BOOM-DEAD!! – and that I could earn $15.00 for licking my elbow, & so could all my friends. To this day, I still try licking my elbow and I *almost* got it.
    My Grandfather has always, always been a constant in my life. He was a GRAND Personality who Loved to be the Epicenter of a Great Family- he needed lots of love, and he learned how to give lots of it.
    Please, remember all veterans need a simple thank you-a reminder NOW that, we appreciate all they did THEN… the fighting, bravery, and courage it took so that WE wouldn’t have to experience war in all its brutality and ugliness.
    I miss you G’pa and as you said to me, “Vesta, I LIKE YOU,” with the biggest smile last summer, “G’pa, I LIKE YOU too!!”

  • ella bettinger says:

    i remember my grandfather. such a funny guy. when he didn’t even know someone he was always trying to help them. i enjoyed his amazing stories when he was a fighter pilot. he would always have a smile on his face. on easter every year he would throw money in the air and we would all try to catch it. it will be sad to not see grandpa this christmas, i love you grandpa!

  • George Bettinger Jr. says:

    I was so sorry to learn of uncle Steve’s passing. He was my favorite uncle among all the Bettinger boys, probably because of his bravado and sense of humor (although they all had good ones). I used to enjoy stopping by whenever I was in the Seattle area, which wasn’t too often, and visiting. He was like his brothers, and always had a garage project going where he was inventing this or that. Like others, i always steered the discussion to his flight experiences, because there was a treasure trove of them to be heard, like the time he broke off a dogfight that had begun in Korea but ended somewhere in communist China and was angry at the air controllers for not telling him exactly where he was. When they showed him after returning to base, he bought them a beer for not helping him to start WWIII. My wife Anne and I took a cruise out of Seattle in May of 2009, and went there early to meet Steve and Marilyn for dinner in town. I was glad I had the chance to close the loop and tell him how proud I was of him and his generation for what they did in Europe and Korea.

    So long uncle, you now have clear skies and can soar wherever and whenever you want. Til we meet again in the great beyond, Salute!

  • Patrick Brandt says:

    I just learned of Steven’s death from Wilhelm Fitzpatrick the son of George Fitzpatrick (Cousin of Steven Bettinger). I met Steven in Kirkland, WA. While visiting his home during a family reunion. I still have a photo of him, myself, Wil, and George. Since we both served in the Air Force and had a common ground for a conversation on military issues. I’m sorry to hear of his passing, but he left a huge legacy behind to cherish. He reminded me of Chuck Yeager for all he accomplished. Men of this caliber are rare. He will be missed.

  • john a stone says:

    I first met my uncle steve at a family reunion party at bound brook new jersey in 1954.What I recall most was his gaze. His eyes were powerful and commanding.This was a person who was in control.I was 12 years old at that time and I never forgot that moment.People like uncle steve are indeed rare and blessed with skills beyond the norm. I since went on to become a pilot and I do believe it was due to his influence..I never got to his amazing level of competence..He was a truly incredible person.Thank you uncle steve,your nephew “johnny”..

  • Susan Martin (formerly Bettinger) says:

    It’s Memorial Day Monday and Colonel “Bee” crossed my heart so I looked him up and voila…here I am at his memorial page. I think of him so much it is really puzzling to me. He and I clicked instantly and until the day he passed away, we were friends. I didn’t see him very often, in fact I never saw him again after the last time I saw him in 2000. I LOVED listening to him sing is funny songs, I loved hearing his stories about the way and how he had permission to ‘strafe” the Leaning Tower of Pisa but there were some Nuns and orphan children on bikes riding by and they would have been “collateral damage” and he wasn’t going to have that on his conscious for the rest of his life so he aborted that mission and flew back to base with his heart and soul still intact. God bless you Col…send me a feather today. I will be looking for it. (he sends me feathers on a regular basis…not ones on the ground but they come floating down from heaven and I know it’s from him)


  • Barrett Tillman says:

    I was briefly acquainted with Col. Bettinger in the early 80s when he was writing a memoir. We were introduced by a mutual friend who thought I might offer some suggestions as a published author. Eventually I lost contact with him and always wondered if he finished his manuscript because I would still like to read it!

  • Elaine (Bettinger) Hildebrandt says:

    Out of curiosity I ‘googled’ my maiden name and discovered this page for my uncle Steve! I guess because my aunt’s name was Elaine! I never met her but recall my mom saying how Uncle Steve took her to the Brussels World’s Fair. That was the first time I even knew I had an Aunt Elaine! I didn’t see much of my uncle and never met my cousins. But I remember vividly, when I was 8 years old, he stood with me in our Bound Brook backyard watching jets as they flew overhead leaving white trails behind them. He told me they were contrails, frozen water droplets caused by the extreme cold at the height they flew. They were short lines behind the plane that he said go away quickly, as we could clearly see. I’ve told that story many times, especially now after learning about today’s lines in the sky that DON’T go away but rather spread out turning beautiful blue skies milky white, CHEMTRAILS! I made a point of telling General Douglass, who ran against my husband Ken for US congress here in VA in 2012, about uncle Steve’s being the 39th and last JET ACE of the war when I ran into him at an event and he interrupted a conversation I was having with some folks about my uncle being shot down during the Korean conflict and taken prisoner! I also remember my mom commenting about my father and his other brothers growing up and their antics at the dinner table especially when there was company! I’m glad he lived a happy full and long life, unlike my father who died at 42… It would be nice to be in touch with my cousins if they see this post. Deep condolences to all.

  • Gracelyn Stauffer says:

    This is my great grandfather from my grandmother Mary games and I am so surprised I wish I could’ve met him he was a hero

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