CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – Jeffrey Comeau flew his first plane at 13 years old and got his pilot’s license three years later, well before he could legally drive a car.
The U.S. Navy brought Comeau to Hampton Roads in 1981 from Rolla, Missouri, where his father’s friend taught him the basics of aviation.
After serving eight years as air traffic controller in the military, Comeau spent 2 years at Norfolk International Airport. In 2011, he accepted a job as an air traffic control supervisor for the Federal Aviation Administration in Long Island, N.Y.
“He always said, ‘work as hard as you can, that’s how you become the best,’” said Joey Comeau, one of his three sons. “He did absolutely everything he had to do for whatever it was he was trying to accomplish.”
For the last seven years, Comeau used his single-engine plane to get between Chesapeake and New York at least once a month, according to his family. Flying cut his travel time from nine hours to two hours.
Kathy Comeau says she drove her husband to the Chesapeake Regional Airport on May 22. She watched him thoroughly inspect the plane before taking off.
For the first time in a long time, she even recorded her husband of 30 years sitting in the cockpit. He smiled and waved.
“I kissed him and said, ‘I love you,’ thankfully,” she recalled. “I am grateful that for some reason that morning I took my phone out and videoed. I have his last five minutes and a little wave.”
It was five minutes later when Comeau’s plane crashed into a field about a quarter-mile from the runway and burst into flames.
Mrs. Comeau had already left the airport and started driving home.
“Firetrucks were going by me,” she said. “I thought, ‘I wonder where the accident is? There’s nothing going on out here at 7:30 a.m.’ I continued going home, not knowing.”
Ever since the confirmation, she’s been surrounded by her family and hundreds of people touched by her husband’s kindness.
“There was no bad time for him to go and help somebody, whether it was a complete and total stranger or a family friend,” said Joey Comeau.
Mrs. Comeau says her husband was “way more than aviation.” He was an expert carpenter, even owning his own construction business, and loved deep sea fishing, his small farm and his pets.
She says he put family above it all.
“My dad was my hero,” Joey said. “I hope he knew that.”
Mrs. Comeau says her husband was set to retire in December and had plans to fly over every state in the country.
Comeau leaves behind his wife and three sons: Adam Comeau, 28; Joey Comeau, 27; and Chris Comeau, 26.
A funeral service will be held on June 10 at 5:30 p.m. at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach.