Col. Benjamin Widmann, 85, Army fighter pilot later ran photo studio

April 07, 2005|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Col. Benjamin Widmann, a decorated Air Force officer who later owned and operated an Anne Arundel County photography studio, died of heart attack March 31 while driving near Wisdom, Mont. The former Severna Park resident was 85.

Colonel Widmann was born and raised in Los Angeles, and earned a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1941 from the University of California at Los Angeles.

Commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army, he was transferred to the Army Air Forces, as it was then known, to become a pilot and served in combat in the Pacific during World War II.

"Flying Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighters, he was credited with downing four enemy aircraft and was twice cited for landing and saving planes that had been set ablaze by enemy fire," said a son, Alan Fred Widmann of Annapolis.

His wartime decorations included the Distinguished Flying Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

After the war, Colonel Widmann remained in the Army, transferring to the Air Force when it became a separate service in 1947, and had assignments in the U.S. and abroad. He also earned a master's degree in psychology in 1958 from North Texas State College in Denton - now North Texas State University - and headed its Air Force ROTC program for several years.

He moved to Severna Park in 1961 after being assigned to the National Security Agency. From 1965 until he retired in 1968, he served with the Defense Command Agency in Washington.

"His work at both agencies was of a classified nature," the son said.

In 1970, Colonel Widmann established FotoPros Inc. in 1970 in Severna Park, specializing in family portraits, weddings and youth athletic league player photos.

After closing the business in 1984, he and his wife, the former Ionia M. McMullin, who had been editor of The Severna Park Village Voice, a community newspaper, moved to Island Park, Idaho. She died last year after 62 years of marriage.

He was an avid fly fisherman, and enjoyed fishing for salmon and trout in Alaska, New Zealand and Norway.

"He often used a split-bamboo fly rod that had been presented to his father by Zane Grey, the author of western novels and game fishing books," the son said.

His family will hold a whitefish cookout and memorial service Aug. 6 at Island Park, when his ashes will be placed in Henry's Fork of the Snake River.

Survivors include another son, Patrick C. Widmann of Medford, Ore.; two daughters, Wendy Widmann of Severna Park and Kristie Jean W. Latray of Wisdom; two granddaughters; and a great-grandson.

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