Civil Air Patrol Col. and former U.S. Rep. Lester Wolff, one of CAP’s earliest members, died May 11. He was 102.
Wolff began his CAP volunteer service early in World War II in the New York Wing, serving for the duration of the war and becoming a squadron commander. He later served eight terms on Capitol Hill, from 1965-1981, as a U.S. representative from New York. He was the oldest living former member of the House of Representatives.
“Rep. Wolff embodied all that is good about Civil Air Patrol,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, CAP national commander. “As a World War II volunteer, he helped shape the culture of service before self that has remained constant over the 80 years of Civil Air Patrol's existence.
“As a steadfast advocate for Civil Air Patrol, Rep. Wolff has helped us to achieve the many accomplishments that we have enjoyed over the years. His impact has ranged far and wide across the nation, and we will miss him dearly,” Smith said.
When CAP was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in December 2014 in recognition of its volunteer service during World War II, Wolff accepted the medal on the organization’s behalf in a special ceremony with the leadership of the House and Senate at the U.S. Capitol.
“As a leading member of Congress, he ensured that government leaders fully understood and supported CAP, which eventually resulted in annual funding,” said John Swain, CAP’s government relations director. “Lester was always advocating for us, even up to his last days.”
Wolff and Rep. Jerry Pettis of California established the Congressional Squadron in 1968 so members of Congress and staff could participate in CAP programs.
His legislative efforts led to CAP’s first Supply Bill — the foundation for CAP’s federal funding. He also encouraged government interest in using CAP as counterdrug support.
“He will be truly missed, but his legacy lives on in today’s modern Civil Air Patrol,” Swain said.