Hatch, Lewis M.

Col. Lewis M. Hatch

Col. Lewis M. Hatch, a true example of this country’s “Greatest Generation,” passed quietly from this life on Tuesday, October 18, 2011, at the UNM Hospital. Lewis was born December 14, 1919, on his parents’ dairy farm near Epes, Alabama. The fourth of eight children born to Philip C. and Jean Culver Hatch, Lewis was raised a dairyman’s son. The family relocated to West Virginia and Pennsylvania to further establishment of the Holstein-Freisen breed in the U.S. while Lewis was young, and, from the time they were old enough to milk a cow, he and his brothers and sisters would be up at 4:00 AM every morning to feed and milk the Holstein herd. They would then process, separate, and bottle the milk and cream and load it on a horse-drawn wagon (later, a pickup truck) for two separate deliveries to the town. They did this every day, year-round. There were no breaks from the care of a dairy herd that had to be fed and milked twice a day, every day. Lewis carried this work ethic throughout his life, never letting others do for him what he was able to do himself and always taking great pride in a job well done. Lewis excelled both academically and athletically at high school and entered West Virginia University as a chemical engineering student in 1939. Lewis was recruited for the boxing team following his experience with his brothers, Pat and Austin, putting on Friday night smokers at the coal mines of West Virginia during the depression to earn money for the farm family. Knowing that he was working his way through college and needed money, the boxing coach got him a job working in the university’s gym prior to the start of boxing season. He convinced him to work out with the wrestling team to keep in shape. Possessed of an innate agility and sense of balance, Lewis became a member of the varsity wrestling team during his first year of exposure to the sport. The last two weeks of his season, Lewis received three broken ribs and a punctured lung in a meet that he won. Following that, he had to practice for the week and wrestle a match with a man who was challenging him for his spot on the regional championship team. Lewis maintained his spot on the team but lost his match in the finals with the defending champion. In spite of his injuries, the champion was unable to pin Hatch…he lost on a decision. In 1941, an Army Air Corps recruiter visited Lewis’s chemistry class. He explained that the Aviation Cadet entrance physical was extremely tough to pass and, of course, Lewis and his friends had to see if they could qualify. Lewis entered the Air Corps in December, 1941, and trained as a triple-rated navigator, bombardier, observer. While stationed at Hondo, Texas, a training base near San Antonio, he met and fell in love with Lorraine Cody. Interrupting their romance for the war, Lewis went to England, where he served as a staff navigator and instructor with the British Royal Air Force. Flying regular night-bombing and submarine patrol missions with the RAF and occasional daylight-bombing missions with the USAAC, Lewis remained in England until the European war ended. He returned to Hondo, where he and “Cody” were married. They began their married life with Cody joining him in Nagoya, Japan as part of the Army of Occupation. Cody made the trip by troopship, very pregnant, and their son Lewis was born in Japan. Upon his return from Japan, Col Hatch served in a variety of assignments in the newly formed US Air Force. He flew as navigator-bombardier in a variety of aircraft, including: Wellingtons, Lancasters, Halifaxes, B-17’s, B-25’s, B-29’s, B-36’s, B-47’s, B-52’s, and KC-135’s. While serving in SAC’s Combat Evaluation Group in Tampa, Florida, their daughter Kay Lynne was born. Col Hatch served in staff positions in the Pentagon, and at Strategic Air Command Headquarters. He was possibly the second navigator to be given command of a combat squadron when he received command of the 549th Strategic Missile Squadron at Offutt AFB, NE. Following his tour at Offutt, Col Hatch came to New Mexico to serve as the Director of Plans and Requirements for the Air Force Special Weapons Center at Kirtland. Stationed there from 1965 to 1970, Col Hatch and his family fell in love with New Mexico and became heavily involved in the horse industry. Col Hatch retired to a horse farm in Los Lunas and, with a daughter and wife heavily involved in showing horses, he couldn’t help but be involved. Col Hatch and Cody were each named “New Mexico Horseman of the Year.” Col Hatch always had an abiding love of all animals and the land, but he developed a special relationship with his Great Dane dogs. He raised them for the last 40 years of his life, and always had at least one in his life. He also became a horsebreeder and had several thoroughbred horses running on New Mexico racetracks. Following Cody’s death in 1982, Lew had a long courtship and married Lillie Aguirre in 1988 and touched the lives of her family until her death in 1991. In the short time they were able to be together, Lillie endeared herself to Lew’s family. Lew remembered their canoeing trips in Michigan while visiting his son and confided that her boundless energy helped keep him young. Col Hatch continued to live a full life. He was a good steward of the land, a lover of animals, a student of physics and aerospace, and a strong believer in the power of education. He was kind and generous to those less fortunate, never forgetting his own early life as a child in the depression. He loved making things with his own hand and valued all honest labor. He instilled a strong sense of honor and duty to country in all his children and grandchildren. Most importantly, he saw each day of life as a gift to be lived to the fullest. Col Hatch’s legacy of service to his nation survives in his son Lt. Col Lewis M. Hatch, IV (USAF Ret.) and his wife Kathy, his daughter Kay Johnson (former Lt, USA) and her husband Lt. Col Michael T. Johnson (USA Ret), grandson Cody Hatch (former Capt, USAF), granddaughters Kristin Johnson, Sarah Johnson, Faith Moore and her husband Jeff and great granddaughter Brooke Hatch and a whole host of close friends. Joining with the family members today are Bob, Linda, and Katherine Davey, members of Lew’s “second family, and Lew’s close friend, Diana Linsell. Over the years with his immediate family members serving around the world, we were always comforted to know that Lew was enjoying whatever significant holiday it might be with the Davey clan. The family extends their thanks to the staffs of Presbyterian Hospital and UNM hospital for their care and compassion. In lieu of flowers please give to the charity of your choice or donate blood.