Monday, April 1, 2013


May 1922  to  March 2013

The beloved patriarch of our family has passed away just a few months shy of his 91st birthday. He is survived by his wife, Bettie, five children, nine of ten grandchildren, and two greatgrandchildren. Ken and Bettie had a long love affair, were frequently seen holding hands, and would have been married seventy years this June. He inspired all of us by his example of stability, honesty, humility, generosity and integrity.

Ken had a forty year career at Boeing Aircraft Company. Within his first six years with the company, Ken was Chief of the Aerodynamics Staff in Wichita, and oversaw the production of the B47. Boeing ultimately built 2000 planes that served as part of the Cold War deterrent, as they could reach Moscow from bases in England and North Africa.

At the age of thirty-five, he became the Chief of Aerodynamics for the newly formed Commercial Airline Division. By 1972 Ken was promoted to VP General Manager of the 747 project, and ran the Everett plant for six years.  Ken, Joe Sutter, Robert Davis and Everette Webb were recognized two decades later as the "visionary developers" of the 747, and were awarded the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Aerospace Prize.

In 1978, Ken was made the VP General Manager of New Programs, which included the 757 and 767 jetliners. Both models sold over a thousand planes and the majority are in service to this day. In 1984, Ken, Phil Condit and Everett Webb were awarded the Aircraft Design Award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics for managerial and technical leadership "creating two airplanes of outstanding performance and economy.

In the last five years of his career, Ken was promoted to Senior Vice President of the Corporate Management Council, serving as the top technical engineer for the company. Although officially retired in 1987, Ken served as a trustee for the Pacific Science Center, and was on the boards of Key Tronic, Chrysler Corporation's Technical Council, and York International. Ken was also a fellow of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, and the British Royal Aeronautical Society.

His travels for Boeing took him to England, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, South Africa, Australia, Israel, Kuwait and Japan. He flew a delivery flight with Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, met the Shah of Iran, and was presented a watch by King Hussein of Jordan. An even greater highlight for him was skiing with former Olympian Jean-Claude Killy.

Ken's passions beyond flight design and problem solving were sailing, skiing, tennis, woodworking, and Friday night hamburgers and tater tots with his family. Ken called Snowmass Village, Colorado "My Shangri-la," and was fond of starting a ski day by enthusiastically proclaiming, "Another day in paradise!" He was well into his eighties before he reluctantly gave up his season ticket. His ashes will be spread on the Sheer Bliss ski run on Snowmass Mountain. 

Ken is survived by his wife Bettie Roberts Holtby; his children Mike Holtby (Judy Linn), Tracy Meilleur (Raoul), Jeff Holtby (Jennifer Sand), Kris Buren (Bobby) and Matt Holtby; his grandchildren Lisa, Damon, Jamila, Carrie, Ryan, Amanda, Meadow, Birdie, and Hazel; and his great-grandchildren Benjamin and Jaden.

Donations in Ken's name can be made to his alma mater, Caltech; or his favorite charities:The Museum of Flight, the Pacific Science Center, or Doctors Without Borders.

A small memorial service will be held April 27th on Whidbey Island. Please contact a family member for further details.

Ken and Bettie in their younger days joking around for a fake photo shoot.