Bill Boeing Jr., son of the Boeing Company’s founder, died early Thursday morning in his sleep at age 92.
National news media quickly covered his passing. They noted Boeing’s work with Seattle’s Museum of Flight, his real estate projects, and his philanthropic legacy.
But none of the initial stories mentioned his passion for hydroplane racing.
From 1956 -1960, Bill Boeing Jr. owned and campaigned Miss Wahoo, named for his wife’s hometown of Wahoo, Neb. Czech freedom flier Mira Slovak, who died earlier this year, was Boeing’s personal pilot and drove Wahoo to three race wins.
Bill also owned a backup hull, identical to Miss Wahoo, that he sold to a Spokane civic group in 1957, enabling them to go racing. Miss Spokane, “Queen of the Inland Empire,” a.k.a. the “Lilac Lady,” campaigned through 1961.
In 2007 a replica of Bill Muncey’s 1955 Miss Thriftway was launched. It too was a twin of Wahoo. When Bill Boeing Jr. saw it, he wistfully said he wished his own hydro still existed. Racing under another name for a new owner, that hull had disintegrated in 1966.
No matter. Boeing teamed with three other business luminaries and hydro enthusiasts in 2007 to fund an exact replica of Miss Wahoo, to be built by Mike Hanson. And in July 2009, Boeing, Scott Carson, Bruce McCaw, and Joe Clark witnessed the launch of their reborn Wahoo.
I enjoyed meeting Bill Boeing Jr. at Seafair in August 2011, when he watched as his old friend and pilot Slovak took Wahoo out for a 140-mph spin on Lake Washington. Accompanying Boeing that day was Dr. Randy Pillow, longtime Seafair race chairman (top photo).
It’s sad to lose Slovak and Boeing in the same year. At least we’ll have Miss Wahoo around, kicking up roostertails for the next generation to enjoy.