Kenneth Cairns Obituary

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In Memory of

Kenneth Cairns

June 2, 1920 - July 30, 2011
Obituary

Kenneth Grant Cairns June 2, 1920 Grant was born to Kenny and Gretta Cairns, nee Grant. He was a fifth generation St. Helenan. On July 30, 2011 Grant Cairns died at home, of invasive cancer, on the ranch where he grew up, on the Silverado Trail. Grant was educated in St. Helena schools. He graduated from U.C. Davis, College of Agriculture, Class of 1940. In 1942 he married his high school sweetheart, Dorothea Eisan, and then joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. WWII was underway. The war would put dreams of farming on hold. Most of Grant and Dorothea's marriage was spent in the military. The marriage produced two children, Kenneth S. Cairns...
Kenneth Grant Cairns
June 2, 1920 Grant was born to Kenny and Gretta Cairns, nee Grant. He was a fifth generation St. Helenan. On July 30, 2011 Grant Cairns died at home, of invasive cancer, on the ranch where he grew up, on the Silverado Trail.

Grant was educated in St. Helena schools. He graduated from U.C. Davis, College of Agriculture, Class of 1940. In 1942 he married his high school sweetheart, Dorothea Eisan, and then joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. WWII was underway. The war would put dreams of farming on hold. Most of Grant and Dorothea's marriage was spent in the military. The marriage produced two children, Kenneth S. Cairns II and Nancy Cairns Pace. He married his second wife, Greta Jensen, in 1968. Greta lived out her life on the Cairns ranch, predeceasing Grant in 2007.

Grant was an accomplished, highly decorated pilot. During the war he flew "The Hump", India to China, as a cargo and tanker pilot. After the war he flew the Berlin Airlift, delivering food, supplies, and fuel to the war ravaged city of Berlin. During the Korean War he flew troops over, and returned with the wounded. In the mid 1950's much of his time was spent inside the Arctic Circle. The Cold War was on and the DEW (Distant Early Warning) line was under construction. Once completed, a line of radar stations would stretch from the Yukon to Greenland keeping constant vigil for enemy bombers. Grant was an ice specialist, having had extensive Arctic airlift experience and training in landing on sea ice. An ice specialist would determine whether or not the floating sea ice beyond the Arctic Circle was strong enough for Air Force C-124's to land with equipment and supplies, critical for the completion of the DEW line. Next he was assigned to Ice Island Alpha, 200 miles north of Point Barrow, Alaska, where an international geophysical year observation station was being constructed. In 1962 Grant was flying C-135's, assigned to one of the Air Force's first all jet strategic airlift units, at Travis AFB.

Growing wine grapes was not his dream, raising cattle was. But when his father suddenly died of a heart attack at Echo Lake, July 1964, Grant, still fully engaged in the Air Force, took on the ranch responsibilities, living in St. Helena and commuting back and forth to Travis. He retired from the Air Force at the end of that year. He was now a grape grower. In the l970's he served on the Napa Valley Cooperative Winery's Board of Directors. He didn't believe in retirement: "I'll go down with my boots on," he'd say. The military was the adventure of his lifetime, farming its core.

He flew the globe, but ask him about Paris or Berlin and he'd say he'd only seen the airfield. Would he like to go back to Europe, or Asia, and see it from the ground? "No, I didn't leave anything there." So, after retirement from the Air Force, he was either at home on the ranch, or at the Cairns' cabin, Echo Lake. There were occasional road trips, but travel wasn't of much interest to him. He chose to lead a simple life.

There's a huge hole where he once existed. He was not an ordinary man. He is survived by his daughter, son, ex-wife, and the Glenn Cook family.

There will be a public visitation at Morrison Funeral Chapel (975 Vintage Avenue in St. Helena) Monday, August 8 from 4 PM to 7 PM. A Graveside Service will be held Tuesday, August 9 at 10 AM at the St. Helena Cemetery (2461 Spring Street in St. Helena). Arrangements under the direction of Morrison Funeral Chapel, St. Helena, CA.

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