Richard N. Cody

NO. 17563  •   1929 – 29 April 2007

Died in Annandale, VA
Interred in Old Mission Mausoleum, Wichita, KS

"Why, you’re a sunflower from the Sunflower State!" exclaimed Frank Thompson when Richard Neal ‘Dick’ Cody arrived at West Point from Kansas in 1946. Little did Frank realize how apt that descriptor was for the personable and easygoing Dick Cody. His good nature and warmth characterized Dick’s friendships at West Point, during his Air Force career and are what his family misses most about him.

Dick was the first child of Ione and Ralph Cody born in Hutchinson, KS. Dick was joined by siblings Rosemary and Jim. The children loved visiting grandparents in Clearwater, KS, where they enjoyed riding through the wheat fields on the tractor.

Attending West Point was Dick’s boyhood dream. The rigors of the Academy did not dampen nor overwhelm him. Despite Dick’s service as Chairman of the Escort Committee, he remained loyal to fellow Wichita East graduate and sweetheart, Marilyn Barnum.

Upon graduation in 1950, Dick was commissioned into the U.S. Air Force and began flight training. He and Marilyn were married and moved to Lubbock, TX. Then Dick served a combat tour in Korea flying B-29s. Marilyn and baby, Diane, returned to Wichita to be with family.

Dick’s next assignment was the beginning of a long period of satisfying service in the Strategic Air Command. From 1952-57, Dick was assigned to the 68th Bombardment Wing in Lake Charles, LA, where, as a B-47 and B-29 pilot, he served as instructor and aircraft commander. His next job was serving as Director of Ops & Training at Barksdale AFB. Their family grew and now included Diane, Rick, David, and Lauren.

The family began a three-year adventure where Dick served as an Exchange Officer with the Royal Air Force attending Staff College at Bracknell then serving on the Operations staff at RAF Headquarters Bomber Command in High Wycombe. The years in England were filled with travel—each summer Dick and Marilyn loaded the four kids into a VW camper with a Coleman stove, six-man tent and they camped throughout Europe. They took in all the sights—museums, cathedrals, and amusement parks—in the right combination to keep the crew happy. Evenings were times to re-group around the campfire.

Leaving dear friends Dick and Marilyn made in England was not easy but a different kind of assignment was waiting for the family in Dallas, TX. They lived as civilians while Dick studied for a Master of Science in Engineering Management at Southern Methodist University. The southern hospitality encircled the family when Dick left for the Philippines where he was Chief of the Command Center of the 405th Fighter Wing at Clark Air Force Base. He "commuted" to Vietnam and flew 139 ground attack combat missions as a B-57 pilot in Southeast Asia. His family joined him in the Philippines expanding their travel to include Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong, and areas throughout the PI.

The Codys returned to the States and Dick was assigned to the Pentagon with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He valued the headquarters experience but was pleased to assume command positions at the 320th Bombardment Wing at Mather AFB in California. While Marilyn and the kids stayed there, Dick served on temporary duty at U-Tapao Airfield, Thailand, in 1972-73. He was the airborne commander for the SAC bomber forces leading two Linebacker II missions over North Vietnam in the "Eleven-Day War" of December 1972. Following his combat assignment, Dick was named Commander, 93rd Bombardment Wing at Castle AFB.

Before leaving California, Dick was promoted to brigadier general. In his characteristically straightforward way, Frank Thompson sent his congratulations and comment, "Dick, you were the last guy I thought would become a general—you’re just not serious enough!" Indeed, Dick was still the fun-loving, warm-hearted, jokester and that warmth, combined with his clear thinking, was what drew people to him and earned their respect in the command positions he held.

Dick was pulled into SAC headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, NB, where he was Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel and DCS for Plans where he was very involved in the development of the B-1 bomber. While at Offutt, he and Marilyn had great fun living down the street from classmate Dick and Ruthie Newton.

Dick added a second star and was transferred to the Defense Nuclear Agency in Washington, DC, as Deputy Director. Dick retired from the USAF but immediately launched his own consulting business where he helped federal and state governments and agencies prepare for nuclear accidents.

Dick and Marilyn enjoyed their now empty nest by becoming avid square dancers, cruise travelers and visiting children and grandchildren who settled from California to Boston. Another highlight was visiting West Point classmates and attending reunions.

In the late 1980s, Dick experienced symptoms of Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, a progressive disease that steadily robbed him of mobility and mental agility. With help Marilyn was able to care for him at home and became an expert at patient mobilization as they continued to visit their children in Texas, Boston, and Sacramento as well as gather the family at Navarre Beach, FL, for an annual reunion.

One of the hardest parts of Dick’s illness those last 20 years was his children realizing Dick’s 11 grandchildren never got to see him when he was well—strong, kind, funny, smart, and a dynamic leader devoted to his country and his family. A great gift came from classmate Dick Newton who assembled books for Dick’s grandchildren that shared stories, his official Air Force biography, and a personal letter describing who Dick Cody was as a patriot, a friend, and a classmate. Thanks to Colonel Newton’s gift, Dick Cody came alive to those who weren’t lucky enough to get to know him personally.

— Lauren Cody Murphy, daughter