Former legislator lived life of public service

Donald Dahl died in ultra-light plane crash Friday

Staff writers

Donald Dahl of Hillsboro died from injuries he suffered in an ultra-light plane crash Friday south of Hillsboro. He represented the area in the Kansas House of Representatives for 12 years and before that had a career in aviation for the U.S. Navy.

Vi Dalke’s late husband, Jerry, was a close friend of Dahl’s, growing up together in Hillsboro.

“He was just a good guy,” she said of Dahl. “Very strong in his faith, and when my husband died, I relied on him a lot.

“He had such a quality, he’s a kind of person you want around,” she said. “His values were the best.

“Between him and Jerry, it was such a dry sense of humor.”

After his retirement from the Navy at the rank of commander, Dahl was a member of the American Legion post in Hillsboro. Harvey Ray, 1st vice commander of the post, said Dahl helped with funerals and spoke multiple times at the city’s Memorial Day service.

“He highly respected his activity in the service,” Ray said. “He was a very good man, a good friend. I’ll miss him a lot.”

Hillsboro Mayor Delores Dalke had a working relationship with Dahl, often speaking with him about policy issues that affected the area.

“He did a good job representing this part of the state,” she said.

She said his longevity and leadership in the legislature were a great benefit to his constituents. In his final term in the legislature, he was speaker pro tem, the third-highest leadership position in the House, and he was able to get signs placed on highways pointing to Hillsboro, she said.

“I really miss having him up there,” she said.

She said he was conservative but had a personality that allowed him to work well with Democrats and Republicans. Delores Dalke also said she respected the care he provided for his mother for many years.

“He did everything for her,” she said.

County Commissioner Dan Holub, like Dahl, made a career of service in the Navy, and because of that they had a good rapport when Holub spoke to him about policy issues. Holub said Dahl was more than willing to listen with people who had different viewpoints.

“He didn’t listen with a closed mind,” Holub said.

Even after Dahl left office in 2008, Holub said he provided valuable insight on how the legislature worked and how legislators thought.

Gov. Sam Brownback appointed Dahl to the Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission in December.

“I am greatly saddened to hear of Donald Dahl’s passing today,” Brownback said in a news release Friday. “He had a proud legacy of public service. The lieutenant governor and I extend our personal sympathy to his family and friends.”

Ultra-light crash

Friend Arnold Pete Klassen helped Dahl with takeoff in the ultra-light plane Friday afternoon at a farm south of Hillsboro.

“There was a brand new engine in it,” Klassen said. “It buzzed beautifully.”

Dahl was turning southwest when he passed out of Klassen’s view.

“I don’t know how he turned that quick, except for maybe the wind,” Klassen said. “I didn’t see it crash. I just heard a bang.”

According to the Kansas Highway Patrol, Dahl was northbound when the plane hit a tree branch, then hit the ground next to a pond and flipped upside-down and stopped in the pond.

Dahl was taken by ambulance to Hillsboro Community Hospital where he was declared dead about 2:30 p.m. He was 69.

A celebration of life service will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church. Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the church.

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