At 107 years old, Oliver Cellini has lived through the Spanish flu, fought in two wars and wrestled for Indiana’s national championship team–88 years ago.
Born in Chicago Feb. 10, 1913, Cellini followed the footsteps of his father, who served in the Italian army. As a youth, he excelled in wrestling and track and field. He even qualified to compete in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the finances to pay for the trip.
Following graduation, Cellini entered the Army and later, flight training. He piloted Lockheed P-38 Lightning, Seversky P-35 and Republic P-43 Lancer fighter aircraft. During World War II, Cellini also served with the Flying Tigers, a group of American pilots who served as Chinese air force members. He flew over the 14,000-foot Burma Hump regularly. This included a rescue mission to pick up a fellow pilot shot down behind enemy lines.
Following World War II, Cellini also flew in Korea. He flew 87 missions during 18 months in a Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star. Cellini said his proudest accomplishment was never losing a wingman.
In a story with Indiana University, Cellini said he had two unique names for his airplanes: “Donna-Bee” and “Lin-Do-Bee.” He named one plane “Donna-Bee” for his wife and the oldest of his three daughters, Donna. He named his Korean War airplane “Lin-Do-Bee” in honor of his daughter, Linda.
During his 32-year career, Cellini received a Legion of Merit and Distinguished Flying Cross, among many other medals. He flew more than 60 different aircraft and retired as a colonel. He went on to fly private planes and become a real estate agent.
Known as “Grandpa Ollie,” he has three daughters, two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
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