National Fallen Firefighters Foundation

Roll of Honor

Roark D. Schwanenberg

Roark David Schwanenberg came by flying honestly. He shared the passion of flying with his father. Roark was born in Long Beach‚ California‚ on January 19‚ 1954‚ to Don and Joyce Schwanenberg. The family moved to Klamath Falls when Roark was about 13. In school‚ Roark played football‚ and the Minnesota Vikings became his favorite team.

From 1974 to 1978‚ Roark served his country in the U.S. Army. During that time‚ he completed flight school‚ became a warrant officer‚ and was chosen as the Outstanding Airman at Fort Rucker‚ Alabama.

His education included training for the 234 with the British Airways Flight Training School in Aberdeen‚ Scotland; Boeing 234 Flight Training School‚ and American Airline Flight Training School for SK 76’s.

Roark loved flying and had over 40‚000 hours of flight time. He had 33 years of helicopter flight experience‚ which included heavy-lift helicopter aerologging‚ airline transport piloting‚ firefighting‚ construction work‚ and offshore flying with an S 76. In November 1983‚ he made the cover of ‘Rotor and Wing’ by flying a BV-234 (Chinook) accomplishing the ARCO Alaska 400-mile Bering Sea commute.

He always felt responsible for making a difference in the work place and used his humor to help turn around tough situations among the fire and logging crews. If they were having a bad day‚ he tried to lighten the burden to keep them focused.

Roark truly had a caring and fun-loving aura and a deep appreciation and love for his family and friends. He would leave phone messages for his favorite dog‚ Beau‚ and would sometimes ask to talk to him. The phone also became a tool for teasing his family. Roark would sing a song on the message over and over so that tune would be embedded in everyone’s brain. He was a jokester at heart.

He found refuge with his family in the Wallowa Mountains‚ embracing the quiet beauty and solitude‚ riding his motorcycle‚ camping‚ and target shooting. Roark and Christine observed their 20th wedding anniversary July 16‚ 2008‚ but deferred a real celebration until after fire season because of the untimely death of his brother‚ Jon‚ on July 5‚ 2008.

He is survived by his wife‚ Christine; daughter‚ Margo; son‚ Chris Tsiatsos; daughter‚ Deena Hahn (Darren); new grandson‚ Augustus Reed Hahn‚ born March 6‚ 2009; his father‚ Don Schwanenberg (LaVerne); brother‚ Kip Schwanenberg; and extended family. He was preceded in death by his mother‚ Joyce‚ and his brother‚ Jon.

Roark died the way he would have wanted to enter heaven‚ doing what he felt was important‚ making a difference in this world. He laughed…..he loved…….he lived……

Always look up.

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  1. Roark was a very nice guy. He comforted me via radio as he was fueling a 234 to come rescue me as the helicopter I was in had crashed in alaska. Upon landing at the crash site he informed me this would be the fastest and most expensive flight I’ve ever taken lol. He was a true hero that day .

    – James Ketchel
  2. We both loved Roark. He was truly one of the good guys. Such a loss to all who knew him! RIP….

    – Sue and Abe Abel
  3. My Father flew with him in Germany during the 70s. I have heard many a story about the jokester Roark. A Great man by all accounts.

    – David Paul Moore
  4. Just thinking of Roark, as a fuel tanker driver part of the job description was to drive the pilots pickup to and from the motel to the helicopter landing or airport etc., I recall he left his flight gear and helmet in the motel lobby and was an hour ahead of me, I was able to contact the crew by sat phone to let Roark know not to worry that I have his gear and heading up the mountain with it now. We had great conversations with Roark on these travels and kept each other laughing, what a great guy and watching his aviation skills were awesome as I watched him work. I was honored to ride escort motorcycle for the Iron 44 memorial.

    – Kevin Orton