Maurice Ahmed Etem

Maurice was born in the Black Hills of South Dakota on April 24, 1931, and died in those same Black Hills on August 27, 2021.  But, between those dates, he had quite a ride!

Maury’s dad, Ahmed, was a Turkish immigrant who thought he was going on a train to Chicago.  Instead, he wound up in South Dakota  where he worked for the Homestake Mining Company until he started a taxi service (drove Calvin Coolidge around) and then opened the Hudson-Terraplane dealership in Deadwood (where the VFW is now).  Along the way, Ahmed met Rose Crossman.  They married and had two children, Zara and Maury.  Sadly, Zara passed away at age 6.

Maury was captain of both the football and basketball teams at Deadwood High School (as well as the 1949 Homecoming King.)

After a year at Colorado State, he joined the Navy and was stationed at Litchfield Naval Air Facility in Goodyear, Arizona, maintaining aircraft. This is where his love for flying took root.

After the Navy, he joined Douglas Aircraft as a draftsman working on the DC-7 and DC-8 aircraft.  In pursuit of new challenges, he then transferred to the Nike Ajax and then Nike Hercules surface-to-air missile systems.

In the early fifties he married and had a daughter, Laury, but, the marriage was short-lived. In the late fifties Maury met and married Sue Jean Hall, and adopted her two sons, Blake and Craig. In 1959, Darren was born.

Maury’s work with the Nike program took him and the family to Carrizozo, NM and then El Paso, TX, where he worked at Fort Bliss, and at White Sands Missile Range.  It was in El Paso that he acquired his first airplane, a 90 horsepower Aeronca Champ.

In 1962, an opportunity came along that in many ways shaped his life.  Maury was asked to go to Germany to work with the Dutch Air Force on its Nike program.  So, off the family went.  They remained in Germany for over four years, first in Muenster and then in Bad Nauheim.  Maury and Sue lived a glamorous life during their sojourn in Germany, often being invited to the officer’s club bashes (Dutch, German, US or British, they were invited to them all).  The boys attended school, first on an English Army Base and then on a US Army Base.  

The family returned to Southern California to live but it wasn’t long before Douglas offered Maury a position on the Greek island of Crete, installing a Nike missile system used for training NATO troops.

A fond memory of the time on Crete was when the Greek Air Force team from the base challenged the American tech reps to a game of basketball.  No one knows if they had checked Maury’s basketball resume’, but suffice to say the Americans (with no subs and all of them smokers!) won.

Upon returning to California in 1968, Maury returned to working on his first love—airplanes, as an avionics engineer for both the DC-9 and DC-10 programs.  He also had the opportunity to work on the USAF’s classified Manned Orbiting Laboratory program and later on the Saturn moon rocket as a member of the S-IVB team at Douglas.

Despite all of this, Maury found time to manage his son Darren’s Little League baseball team.  The team turned out to be quite good and Darren was its star player.

 But airplanes were still his first love and he was given an assignment in Madrid, Spain, in 1973 to deliver Iberia Airlines’ first DC-10 aircraft.  So, they were off to Madrid for six months.


Back in California, Maury continued working on the DC-9, DC-10, MD-80 and MD-11 aircraft programs for many years, even after the mergers between Douglas, McDonnell and Boeing.  That work took him around the world (including to China before you could easily go there) on a demonstration tour of the improved DC-9. In the 1980’s he was selected to participate in the delivery of a new MD-80 aircraft to Sardinia, Italy for Alisarda airlines. His son Blake was living in Sardinia at the time and met him and the team from Douglas when they landed at Olbia airport. He also had extended assignments in Karachi, Pakistan and Nairobi, Kenya,

It was in Karachi, Pakistan, that he developed his love for tennis by playing with the pro at the hotel in which he stayed.  The pro kept telling him to “Hit it Mr. Etem” and so he did for most of the rest of his life.  Upon his return to the US in the mid-eighties, he and Sue had decided to divorce.

Maury was a regular at Meadowlark Airport (now a parking lot) in Huntington Beach, California. His sons inherited his love of aviation and two of them also obtained their pilot’s licenses. His son Blake followed in his career footsteps and works with military aviation at different locations in Europe and the Middle East.

During the 1990’s Maury was invited to work in England, at the Cambridge airport on a refurbishment program for DC-10 aircraft. While living in Cambridge, his neighbor was Stephen Hawking, the renowned scientist and author with whom he spent many interesting hours.

In California, Maury met the love of his life, Patti Baker, on the tennis courts. Their friendship blossomed and they were basically inseparable from that time on. Upon retirement from Boeing (after it acquired McDonnell Douglas), Maury invited Patti to visit his birthplace, Lead/Deadwood. During the visit Patti suddenly said, “why don’t we move here.” So they moved to Spearfish to be close to his mother, Rose, and quietly got married in 1996. Maury became volunteer coach of both the boys and girls tennis teams at Spearfish High School. (Maury was selected in 2019 to the Spearfish Tennis Association Hall of Fame) and Patti worked at the Spearfish Chamber of Commerce for the next eight years and is still one of their Ambassadors. 

Although distance separated Maury from his children, he remained a very proud parent until the end of his life.  Each of Maury’s children are extremely grateful for the devotion and care that Patti showed Maury.

Maury is survived by, his wife, Patti, (her two sons) and his four children, eight grandchildren and countless friends.  All of us will miss him.

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