Joseph Henry Rosness, retired lieutenant colonel for the U.S. Air Force, passed away in the early hours of Tuesday, Dec. 7, at his Goleta home surrounded by his family. He had battled Parkinson’s disease for more than seven years.
Col. Rosness was born in Seward, Alaska, on May 27, 1919, to John and Helga Rosness, immigrants from Norway. He grew up in Seward, graduating from Seward High School in 1937. He attended the University of Alaska at Fairbanks from 1939-40.
He received an appointment to West Point, graduating with Air Corps wings in June 1943. His class was originally scheduled for graduation in 1944, but with World War II, the class was graduated early “to provide an opportunity for combat experience.” He trained in Arizona and California. The gunnery range was off Santa Rosa Island.
In April 1944, his squadron (the 436th Fighter Squadron) was assigned to the 8th Air Force in England. He flew 66 combat missions from there. One of his most memorable missions was on June 5, 1944, escorting the Normandy Invasion Fleet at low altitudes (100 feet) until darkness in the English Channel. The next day began daily patrol missions over the beachhead area to preclude Luftwaffe attack on our invasion forces. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, an Air Medal with 5 Oak Leaf Clusters and the Commendation Medal, and his squadron was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
Rosness stayed on in Germany for 1½ years after the war followed by various Air Force assignments, including two tours in the Pentagon and two tours in Alaska. In 1958, he received a master’s degree in international relations from Georgetown University. He was assigned to the Strategic Air Command, where he flew the B-47 in the Combat Crew Training Wing at McConnell Air Force Base at Wichita, Kan., and met his future wife, Betty Pyeatt Beaubien.
They married in 1960, and he adopted her four children. In 1962, their son, John, was born. In 1972, their oldest daughter, Melody, died of cancer in Santa Barbara. Rosness retired from the Air Force in 1968 and settled in Goleta, where he and his wife lived since.
He is survived by his wife, Betty; sons Michael, Randall and John; his daughter, Melinda Mason-Ellis; six grandsons; and one granddaughter.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 28 at the Goleta Cemetery. A luncheon reception will follow in the Good Shepherd Lutheran Fireside Room at 380 Fairview Ave. in Goleta. Friends can remember Rosness with memorial gifts to the Youth Program of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church or to the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, 535 Yanonali St., Santa Barbara, CA 93103-3254.