After Jim Morasch’s car was hit last month in north Franklin County, his family sat at his bedside and hoped for “a perfect ending.” But sadly, the longtime Tri-Cities Airport director couldn’t overcome the severity of his injuries and died 3 Feb 11. Saturday, his son Adam Morasch told about 400 family, friends and colleagues that his dad now “is in a better place.” He described his father as “compassionate, caring, kind, generous, a little ornery at times but, most important, he was loving.
A celebration of life was held for Jim Morasch, 68, in a new hangar just up the road from his office of 30 years. Outside the large building, several members of ACES, or American Citizens Encouraging Support, stood in the parking lot with American flags. Inside, government officials and business and community leaders from across the Northwest gathered for the 45-minute service to recognize Morasch’s many successes. The stories spanned decades: Morasch’s childhood in Colfax and a failed attempt to fly off the garage roof with homemade wings; his days as a Dustoff pilot flying rescue missions in Vietnam; his career as an airport director helping Pasco’s facility expand to meet the growing needs of travelers; and his volunteer work on community boards and organizations.
Jim served in the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps as a DUSTOFF pilot from 1967-1970. He flew DUSTOFF in Vietnam, June 1968-June 1969, with the 498th Air Ambulance at Lane Army Heliport. He was discharged with the rank of Captain.
“We knew Jim as the master of the airport,” said Port of Pasco Commissioner Bill Clark. There wasn’t a foot of wire, a screw, a bolt or a light that Morasch didn’t know about at the facility, he said. Morasch’s amazing strength was his ability to think clearly in all levels of his life, along with his temperament, sense of decorum and nerves of steel, Clark said. Morasch got his pilot’s license before his driver’s license. “I was envious of his flying career and knowledge of aviation,” he said.
Dave Parhalo was another Dustoff pilot who met Morasch in March 1967. He flew out from Florida for Saturday’s service. “Jim was a great person, a great friend and a great pilot and I will miss him,” Parhalo told the crowd before he was overcome with emotion.
Berriochoa gave Launa Morasch a flag that his son, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dan Berriochoa with the Army, recently flew for 12 hours in Afghanistan in tribute to Jim Morasch. Before taps was played and Army personnel presented an American flag to the family, Adam Morasch recalled his dad’s favorite saying from the movie Madagascar. “Just smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave,” he quoted. “Dad, we are all smiling and looking back at you, buddy.”