Grampaw Pettibone

In Memorium Ted Wilbur

Edward “Ted” Wilbur, who served 35 years in the Navy and became known to our readers as the longtime illustrator of Grampaw Pettibone, died Nov. 14. He was 89.

Wilbur joined the Navy as part of the Flying Midshipmen program and attended Villanova University for two years before reporting to flight training in Pensacola, Florida. He earned his wings in 1950 and went on to serve as an aviator, recording more than 5,000 flight hours and 600 landings aboard 36 aircraft carriers.

Among his accomplishments, Wilbur served as the carrier-onboard-delivery detachment officer supporting the nation’s first manned space flight May 5, 1961, flying astronaut Alan Shephard from USS Lake Champlain (CVS-39) to the Bahamas.

After his flying days were over, Wilbur left his mark as an artist, writer and editor. He was the founding staff artist for Approach, the Navy and Marine Corps’ aviation safety magazine. He later covered the Navy’s Vanguard and Polaris missile programs as a combat artist, and also painted nuclear submarines.

In 1967, Wilbur arrived in Washington, D.C., as the editor of Naval Aviation News. During construction of the National Air and Space Museum, he served as the Navy’s project officer for the museum’s Sea-Air Hall.

Wilbur retired from the Navy in 1981 as head of Naval Aviation News and the Naval Aviation Periodicals and History office. He returned to the magazine’s pages in 1994 as the illustrator for its safety sage, Grampaw Pettibone, inheriting the character from creator Robert Osborn.

Wilbur’s paintings have been exhibited internationally as well as at the National Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola.

Wilbur’s military honors include the Navy Occupation Medal (Europe), National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Navy Commendation Medal and the Legion of Merit.

Written by Jeff Newman, staff writer for Naval Aviation News.