AKA William A. Denehie & W. A. Denehie
William Denehie
William A. Denehie, 1911
Collection of Robert Donahue

Courtesy of Margaret Denehie, 12-3-2004
DENEHIE, WILLIAM AUSTIN, Aeronautical Engineer Aircraft Division Chrysler Corp., Detroit.
Residence: 9845 Belleterre Ave., Detroit.
Born: San Jose, Calif., Oct. 22, 1891.
Parents: Edward Lincoln and Laura Louise (Morgan) Denehie.
Education: Los Angeles Auto Sch. 1909; Y.M.C.A. Bus. Coll., Los Angeles; mech engin. course Los Angeles Poly. High Sch.
Married: Edith Mae Breckenridge of Santa Ana, Calif., Dec. 31, 1931
Pilot Record: Learned to fly Dominguez Field, Calif., 1911.
Aviation business record: Co-builder pusher-type biplanes, Dominguez Field, Calif., 1911-12; experimental flights Hyde Park, Calif., 1912; barnstormed 1916-17; co-founder, flight instr. Sperl Aero Corp, Los Angeles, 1928-29; operations mgr. and chief pilot Continental Air Express Inc., Los Angeles, 1929-30; owner and chief instr. Continental Air Sch. 1930; member of searching party of lost air-mail pilot St. George, Utah. 1930; vice-pres. and assoc. engr. of gyro-balanced aircraft engines Multiplex Engin. Co., Los Angeles, 1931-34; chief experimental engr. aircraft engine. dept. Aluminum Industries Inc., Cincinnati, 1934-37; aero. engr. bomber plant Chrysler Corp.
Military record: Technician Squadron K, Kelly Field, Tex., 1918-19.
Member: Early Birds, A.F.A.M., American Legion, Internat. Star Class Racing Assn.
Clubs: Aircraft Engrs. Flying Detroit Shrine.
William Denehie
  1911 Model biplane, 100 HP, 2-cycle, 6-cyl, Emerson Engine built and flown at Dominguez Field, Cal., by L to R: Harvey Crawford and Wm A. Denehie.
Collection of Robert Donahue
Text by Wm A. Denehie
     William A. Denehie was born October 22, 1891, in San Jose, California. He attended Public School there . When he later moved to Los Angeles, he took courses at the Los Angeles Automotive School, the Y.M.C.A. Business College and the Los Angeles Polytechnic High School.
     He was associated with Harvey Crawford at Dominguez Field, where they built and flew a pusher biplane. Bill's first solo flight was made there March 14, 1912.
     In 1918, Denehie joined the U.S. Army Air Service and was assigned to Squadron "K" at Kelly Field, Texas.
     After World War I he joined with H. A. Sperl, aiding him in organizing the Sperl Aero Corporation in Los Angeles.
     Later he operated the Continental Air School in Los Angeles, But he eventually lost out due to the depression which followed.
This from The Early Birds of Aviation CHIRP, June, 1936

     Moving to Detroit, he became a member of the Engineering Department of the Chrysler Corporation. here he stayed until the close of World War II,
     After WW II ended, Preston Tucker employed him to build the first model Tucker car.
     Next, Denehie became Procurement Officer for the U.S. Airforce where he stayed until retirement.
     In a letter to Early Bird President George Page, William wrote:
     "For some time now my airplane has been in the shop, at the Lewis Hangar in Lockport, getting a complete overhaul from prop to tail."
This from The Early Birds of Aviation CHIRP
January, 1975 Number 81

via email from Margaret Verdelle Denehie,
Bill's only daughter, 11-25-04
Dear Mr. Cooper.
     Thank you for answering so promptly. I am spending the holiday in your warm sunny California with friends. My home these days is in DeKalb, 60 miles west of Chicago. I guess my nomad blood, that used to boil, is a given...being that I am W.A. Denehie's daughter.
      My Father was my hero, an adventurer, born in1891, named after his ancestors, William F. Cody and Steven F. Austin . William F. Cody of the Pony Express, better known as Buffalo Bill and Steven F. Austin, Alamo defender, Father of Texas. 1891 seemed more like another planet to me, while growing up in the 1940s listening to my Fathers tales. And oh what a story teller he was. There were stories of Howard Hughes, Preston Tucker, Ralph DePalma, Peter DePalmo, Keystone Cops, and Continental Airway Express.
      I vividly remember the day I went to work at Tucker with my Father. We walked up the ramp, got into the "take your breath away BLUE" Tucker just assembled and my Father drove us down the ramp and around the huge parking lot. I remember thinking while looking down the assembly line that the automobiles looked like brightly colored Easter eggs. Cars up to that time were all black, and the Tuckers were alive and screamed with color. It was a thrill and a treasured moment that I hope to share with the young man at News Week magazine who will write about William Austin Denehie.
     You mentioned The Early Birds...my every Summer up to the mid 1960s was spent at their convention. It was my privilege to know the pioneers of aviation. Thank you for your time and effort spent researching these remarkable individuals.
Sincere Regards,
M.V. Denehie
via Email from Robert Donahue
Bill's grandson, 11-27-02
     Hello, I'm Robert M. Donahue. My Grandfather was Mr. Denehie. My Father, Jack B. Donahue, changed his name from Denehie to Donahue at 18 years of age. Jack was born in Los Angeles to William Denehie and Eva Borgen Denehie on 01/18/24. William Denehie divorced my Grandmother and later Married Edith.
     I would like to know if I have any living relatives. I am trying to also do a family genealogy (I'm just getting started). According to Mr.. Cooper's site Mr.. Denehie has a daughter in New York. I have a couple family photos of Edward Patterson, James B. and Margaret Verdelle. I think these are William Denehie's children from his marriage with Edith, but I'm not positive. I would appreciate any information you may have. Jack Donahue is still alive, but his memory is not very good. I have a son, Bryan, who is 22 years old. I also have a picture of My Grandfather sitting on a 1911 Model biplane with Harvey Crawford, at Dominguez Field, CA. This fact is mentioned in Mr.. Cooper's web site.
Thanks for any information.
Rob Donahue
Reply for Rob Donahue
via email from Harrison ("Joe") McDonald, 2-13-04
Re Mr. Donahue's request for info on your web site.
     My late wife and I had the privilege of living next door to Bill (William A.) Denehie and his wife, Edyth, from 1958 until 1962. I heard a number of stories of his exploits while we lied there, including tales of his days with Tucker, with Chrysler, and with a team of auto mechanics who raced the first car to exceed 60 mph at Indianapolis. Every year around Memorial Day the Goodyear company (I believe) ran a 2-page spread ad in Life showing the teams who had raced and won on Goodyear tires. I wrote to them once and asked if I could have a copy of the photo for that year, (the photos were captioned with years and speeds), and they graciously sent it to me -- sorry, I don't have it any more, but they might. The photo of Bill in his checkered cap reminded me of it; the cap was his trademark in racing days.
     Bill was actually still employed by the US government when we first knew him, but his real love was his old DeSoto, (I think -- it could have been a Plymouth) ,which he spent hours rebuilding in the yard next to ours. I learned a little about fixing cars from him, and had the courage to buy my first set of car tools while we lived there.
     I remember he told us he was working on having a historical marker erected in southern Wisconsin to commemorate either the Early Birds or perhaps an early flight by Octave Chanute. I have never been able to locate it when I go back (from Maryland and/or New Jersey) to Illinois/Wisconsin to visit. Do you know anything about it?
     For Mr. Donahue: I don't know anything about current wherabouts of either Pat or Verdelle; the other son wasn't around much when we lived near Bill. Verdelle was a Playboy bunny for a time and was a "Bunny Mother" or some such for a while, looking after the younger Bunnies. You might be able to locate her through that organization. I believe Edyth also passed away, probably around 15 to 20 years ago, although I'm not sure; I know she was younger than Bill.
     Mr. Cooper, thanks for the memories engendered by your Web site. I knew another early Birds member at a job in Illinois, but I don't remember his name. He was also a member of the Queer Birds (definitely NOT the "gay" type of "queer"), probably a more local group in the Chicago area.
     Another quick question: Isn't there some kind of memorial to aviation pioneers with a list of Early Birds here in Washington DC?
Thanks again. This doesn't really answer Mr. Donahue's question, but I'd like to hear from him.
Harrison ("Joe") McDonald

via Email from Doug A. Kendall, 11-24-04
Bill's grandson
Hello Ralph,
I really enjoyed your site. The pictures are just wonderful. I am Margaret Denehie's son Douglas Austin Kendall. I will get my facts together as far as dates and such and will be talking with a writer that wants to do a book about "W. A." He was always W. A. to me as he initialed all his tools, pictures, etc. with W. A. Denehie. I know he was the pit crew chief for Peter De Paulo at Indy and I used to have the pictures. I will be in contact with you again soon.
Doug A. Kendall
Editor's Note: If you want to see a nice picture of one of the cars Peter De Paulo drove to victory at Indy in 1925 and 1927, click on:
Peter de Paulo

via Email from Debbie Denehie Hills, 8-11-05
Mr. Cooper,
I am trying to reach Margaret V. Denehie. She and I are related... Her Grandfather and my Great Great Grandfather were brothers. I have a Family Reunion picture from the 1930's with her Grandfather Ed in it, including many other family members... as I mentioned in a previous email, my father Paul Edward Denehie was quite connected with the "500" in Indianapolis. I would also like to let Margaret know that William's Great Grandfather was named Benjamin Austin, born out east in 1795. I would really love to get in touch with Margaret and share what I know and ask her a few family questions, her phone number and address are unlisted, so I am asking for your help...Would you please pass this onto her? If you aren't comfortable with this, please email me and let me know you received this contact.
It sounds like Robert M. Donahue is quite interested in genealogy also...I have gone back six generations and there are four of us from the original family that have made contact with each other and we all have an interest in family history. If I could connect with someone from William A's Family, that would make five descendents from five of the original ten children...
Thank You in Advance,
Debra Denehie Hills

  "Bill" Denehie died May 6, 1974. He is survived by his wife, Edith, and a daughter living in New York City.
This from The Early Birds of Aviation CHIRP
January, 1975 Number 81
Editor's Note:
If you have any more information on this Early Bird,
please contact me.
E-mail to Ralph Cooper
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