Cumberland Times-News


June 25, 2014


CUMBERLAND — Fidelis Vernon “Fiddle” Miltenberger, 91, of Cumberland, passed away on Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at Western Maryland Regional Medical Center surrounded by his family.

Born on May 17, 1923, in Wiley Ford, W.Va., he was the son of the late George Miltenberger and Mary Wolfe Miltenberger. He attended Sts. Peter and Paul School under the auspices of the Ursuline sisters. He then assisted his father in running the family farm and orchard on Knobley Mountain, Wiley Ford. This included taking fresh produce and eggs to market and home delivery.

Mr. Miltenberger married Josephine Coleman on Aug. 18, 1956, and in October the couple embarked on a five-year lay mission in Mendi, Papua New Guinea, under the auspices of the Capuchin Friars of St. Augustine Province of Pennsylvania. Fiddle and Jo were the first lay missionaries in the aptly named Fly River Mission (later named Mendi Mission) of the Port Moresby vicariate, where he served as mission pilot. Their first home was made of grass, constructed by the local people on their arrival in Mendi. Their first two children, Ann and Michael, were the first Westerners born in the Highlands, where only rudimentary facilities were available.

As a pilot, Mr. Miltenberger amassed more than 2,000 hours of jungle and bush flying in a Cessna 180 over largely uncharted terrain. He frequently said that the land was so mountainous that the distance covered in a 20-minute flight would take two weeks to walk. With many airstrips at over 5,000 ft. elevation, mountain peaks over 12,000 ft. and daily tropical thunderstorms, the challenges to the pilot of a small single-engine plane were enormous. The highest levels of skill and judgment were required for success in this mission.

On return to the United States in 1962, Mr. Miltenberger established a home in Cumberland and earned his GED. In 1963, he began work as a mold repair specialist with the Kelly Springfield Tire Co., retiring in 1987. He was a member of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.

Mr. Miltenberger experienced his first flight in an Aeronca C-2, and obtained his pilot’s license in 1943, and he was passionate about aviation and flying. In the 1950’s he owned a J-5 Piper Cruiser with two friends Bob McBride and Jack Delagrange. He was a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association, Chapter 426, and an active pilot in the local recreational flying, skydiving and glider communities. He also enjoyed visiting aviation museums and air shows of which his favorites were in Lock Haven and Oshkosh, and the Udvar Hazy Center National Air and Space Museum.

He was also an avid gardener, painter, modeler and woodworker, and in his senior years taught himself to cross country ski. A lifelong member of the Experimental Aircraft Association chapter at Mexico Farms, Mr. Miltenberger served for many years as president, as well as in other positions of leadership. Every summer he put in a garden, and often experimented with new varieties of tomatoes. One summer he grew the largest pumpkin in the area, for which he received a blue ribbon at the Cumberland Fair. In addition, he worked tirelessly with the Cumberland Garden Club in their efforts to beautify the city.

Mr. Miltenberger was devoted to his family and especially loved the annual family reunion picnic held since 1966. The first reunion was held in 1965 at the Sts. Peter and Paul School cafeteria. From there, the reunion moved to his sister Angela Wolford’s (born Miltenberger) farm in Wiley Ford, and from there to the Church of the Seven Dolors in Beans Cove, Pa.

Mr. Miltenberger was preceded in death by his wife, Josephine Regina Coleman Miltenberger; eight brothers, John, Ambrose, Bernard, Charles, Christopher, Henry, and Fr. Stanley Miltenberger, OFM Cap.; and four sisters, Angela, Sister Hermina (Edith) Miltenberger, OSU, Sister Rosaire (Isabel) Miltenberger, OSU, and Gladys “Glady.”

Surviving are a daughter, Ann Miltenberger Sperry (and her husband, Clark Stevens Sperry Jr.), of Crownsville; three sons, Michael Miltenberger (and wife Isabella) of Wichita, Kan., William Miltenberger of Baltimore, and Edward Miltenberger of Arlington, Va.; two grandchildren, Malissa Ann Sperry of Crownsville and Clark Stevens Sperry III of Boulder, Colo.; his brother, Leo (and his wife, Dorothy “Dot” Miltenberger) of Finleyville, Pa.; 17 nieces, 14 nephews and numerous cousins.

At his request, his body was cremated.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated in Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church, Cumberland, on Saturday, June 28, 2014, at 11 a.m. Friends and family will be received in the church anteroom prior to mass.

An aviator’s fly-by tribute and missing-man formation will follow at Mexico Farms airport coordinated by Bill Pancake, as well as a celebration-of-life picnic.

The family wishes to thank the many relatives, friends and neighbors for their boundless assistance assisting Fiddle to remain in his home as long as possible. Also, we appreciate the kind hearted staff at Allegany Rehab and Nursing Center and ProCare that assisted him in so many ways.

Expressions of sympathy may be made in his name to EAA Young Eagles Program.  

Experimental Aircraft Association, Inc.

P.O. Box 3816

Oshkosh, WI 54903-3816



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