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  Jason Bayer

Jason Arthur Bayer ('88)
Editor's Note:  Lt. Comdr. Jason Bayer was one of two Navy men who dies in the crash of a China Lake helicopter on a rugged Sierra Nevada ridge in March 2002.

A special Educational Fund has been set up for Jason's two children, Gabriella and Jason Christian (J.C.) Bayer.  Donations may be sent to:
c/o Anne Bayer, Account #05059-00047
Bank of America
101 W. Ridgecrest Blvd.
Ridgecrest CA 93555
 Attention:  Linda Estrada

Two articles about Jason's death from the Reno Gazette-Journal:

Navy pilot’s life remembered

Elaine Goodman

4/6/2002 08:16 pm




Anne Bayer speaks at the memorial for her husband Jason, who was killed in a helicopter crash near Ridgecrest, Calif. - Liz Margerum/RGJ
Anne Bayer speaks at the memorial for her husband Jason, who was killed in a helicopter crash near Ridgecrest, Calif.






Early in his career with the U.S. Navy, Jason Bayer chose “Griz” as his call sign, short for grizzly bear.

But when Bayer’s colleagues discovered that his future wife, Anne, was calling him “Pooh Bear” in love letters, that was the moniker that stuck.

Lt. Cmdr. Arthur Jason “Pooh Bear” Bayer was remembered Saturday in a ceremony that drew 300 people to Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Carson City.

Bayer, 34, was killed in a Navy helicopter crash on March 28 about 120 miles north of Los Angeles. He leaves behind his wife, who is expecting a son in June, and 1-year-old daughter Gabriella.

Bayer will be buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Bayer was born in Reno in 1968, and graduated from Carson High, where he played on the football team.

Bayer took an early interest in airplanes and the military.

His aunt, Tia Cobb, remembered how, during a visit to a bookstore, her nephew bypassed children’s books in favor of a book with pictures of ships, planes and soldiers.

Bayer’s father, Art Bayer, recalled his son’s first words.

“He pointed to the sky, with his little baby finger, and said ‘jet,’” Bayer said.

Bayer seemed to be on track to realizing his dream of becoming an astronaut, and the first person to land on Mars.

“You know it as well as I do, he was going to make it,” Art Bayer said.

After graduating from the University of Southern California, Bayer completed aviation officer candidate school and advanced jet flight training.

At the time of his death, Bayer was a test pilot in the Naval Weapons Test Squadron at China Lake in Ridgecrest, Calif.

Complementing his professional life was his marriage to Anne in 1995 and an active involvement in church.

Bayer’s sister, Jessica Bayer, said she watched her brother grow from the boy she had rubber-band fights with to become an “amazing man.”

“He was a leader, showing us how to follow our dreams,” she said.

“I would even guess that Jason is right now teaching the angels a few new tricks about flying,” she added.

Bayer’s mother, Carson High teacher Merry Ann Bayer, died in 1999 after battling cancer.

Saturday’s ceremony started with the national anthem and ended with “America the Beautiful.”

Two of Bayer’s Navy colleagues presented Art Bayer with an American flag in his son’s memory.

The crash that killed Bayer also took the life of Petty Officer Charles Chaco, 22, of Guam.

Both men were aboard a Navy HH-1 Huey helicopter that crashed during a search-and-rescue exercise on a rugged Sierra Nevada ridge about three miles west of Kernville, Calif.

Four others aboard the helicopter were injured.


Friends recall pilot killed in chopper crash
Ray Hagar

4/5/2002 11:32 pm

Today, a memorial service is scheduled for Bayer at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church and School in Carson City at 1 p.m. A memorial service was also held Wednesday at the Naval Weapons Station at China Lake, near Ridgecrest, Calif., for Bayer and Chaco.

Long before Navy Lt. Cmdr. A. Jason Bayer took to the skies as a jet pilot, he was a daredevil.

“He would hide in the dryer when we played games of hide-and-seek,” said Beth Kitchen of Carson City, who was Bayer’s baby sitter when he was 8 years old.

“He was not beyond jumping on furniture,” Kitchen said. “I was often terrified that his mother would come home and think I was not doing a very good job.”

It was that kind of moxie that led Bayer to serve — and to be ready to volunteer.

Bayer, 34, was killed in a Navy HH-1 helicopter crash last Thursday near Lake Isabella, Calif., leaving behind an infant daughter and pregnant wife. He was one of two crew members killed when the chopper went down about 120 miles north of Los Angeles. Petty Officer Charles Chaco, 22, from Agat, Guam, also died.

Bayer, who was one of Carson High’s top graduates in 1986, volunteered for the ride-along at the last minute when another crew member became ill.

“That sounds like him. Somebody needed something and Jason jumped to it,” said Bernadette Garcia, a friend of Bayer’s since their college days at the University of Southern California who now works for Southwest Airlines.

Carson High classmates who grew up with Bayer remembered him as a good friend to have, especially after he earned the Dean’s Scholarship to USC and began a four-year stint as the manager for the USC football team.

“For our birthdays and at Christmas, we’d all get USC football stuff,” said Michael de la Torre, a former Carson classmate who is now a teacher at Sparks High. “One year we got Rose Bowl tickets. Another time we got tickets to see USC play Oklahoma. They were great seats. Marcus Allen and O.J. Simpson were sitting right in front of us.”

Bayer also secured a souvenir for one of his coaches at Carson High, who was a former player at the University of Notre Dame. Now that coach says he’ll cherish his gift from Bayer even more.

“Notre Dame was playing USC on the (west) coast and Jason snagged a Notre Dame football during the pregame warm-ups,” said Jim deArrieta, who now runs deArrieta Insurance Agency in Carson City. “After the game, he sent it to me. That’s always been a special thing to me.

“Now, it takes on a whole different meaning.”

Sports were of great interest to Bayer, especially as a child, friends say.

Bayer made a name for himself in Little League baseball, where as a 12-year-old he was named an all-star for the Carson National League.

“He had the highest batting average in the league,” said Dane Farnworth, a 1986 Carson High graduate now living in Pueblo, Colo.

Through his childhood, he and his sister, Jessica were raised by their mother, Merry Ann Bayer. She and Bayer’s father, Carson City attorney Arthur Bayer, divorced when the children were young, friends said.

Merry Ann Bayer was an English and journalism teacher at Carson High School. She died of cancer in 1999 after a long struggle, friends said. Jessica and Jason later sponsored a scholarship at Carson High in their mother’s honor. Jason gave an impassioned speech about her during the ceremony dedicating the scholarship, friends said.

“Those kids and their mom just really stuck together,” said Charlie Kitchen a longtime friend of the family and broker/owner of Charles Kitchen Realty. “They are an expression of their mother’s love. She raised those kids and had two fantastic kids.”

Added Sparks High teacher de la Torre: “She had the biggest influence on Jason, more than anyone. He just loved her, respected her. She was always there for them.”

Jason’s mom, however, became a tough teacher when Jason was a student in her freshman English class at Carson High.

“He was a straight-A student,” de la Torre said. “The only A minus Jason ever got was from his mother. He was supposed to write a paper and Jason said he didn’t feel like it, so he got an A minus.

“When he was a senior that A minus was the difference with him not becoming the valedictorian of the class, although he did graduate in the top five,” de la Torre said.

Bayer’s volunteer spirit, which ultimately led to his death, seemed to blossom at Carson High, said former coaches.

Bayer was a defensive back on the varsity football team as a senior in 1985, former head coach Paul Paul Croghan said.

“He ran hard and was a good tackler,” Croghan said. “He was on most of our special teams and dislocated his elbow when we played at Reed High.”

Bayer was taken to the hospital but returned to watch the fourth quarter of the game with his elbow in a splint.

The injury ended his season but Bayer would not give up.

“I was the kicking coach,” deArrieta said. “He wasn’t a kicker but came over to me and asked, ‘Coach, can you show me how to kick? I just have to get into the game.’ ”

DeArrieta said Bayer became pretty good, too. Croghan didn’t think Bayer got his chance to kick an extra point or field goal because that season “was a lean year and we didn’t score much.”

Although Beth Kitchen said Bayer dreamed of going to outer space as a child, his real desire was to become a jet pilot and, later, an astronaut.

“During our freshman year (in college), I went down to see him at USC,” de la Torre said. “He had this Navy recruiter’s card on his desk. I asked him what it was for and he said, ‘I want to fly jets.’”

His dream of being an astronaut was also rekindled at USC, his friend Garcia said. His boyhood dream of space flight followed him throughout his career, Garcia said, adding Bayer now has his chance.

“Jason wanted to be an astronaut and always told me so,” Garcia said. “So now he’s up there. Flying in the stars. I just flew in from Florida And since 9-11, people get really terrified flying. But I felt a calm, knowing Jason is up there watching after me. If I could ever choose anyone to be my guardian angel, it would be Jason.”

After graduating from USC with a degree in sports medicine, Bayer was accepted into the Navy’s Aviation Officer Training Candidate School in Pensacola, Fla., de la Torre said.

“I remember him telling me that his graduating class had the highest scores ever up to that point,” de la Torre said.

From there, Bayer went to Primary Flight School in Corpus Christi, Texas, then to Intermediate Flight School in Kingsville, Texas, and finally to Advanced Flight School in El Toro, Calif.

Bayer was selected to fly the F/A-18 fighter attack jet and in 1994, he became a pilot on the USS Independence aircraft carrier, based in Japan.

After three years on the USS Independence, Bayer became an advanced flight instructor for the Navy. In 1999, he was transferred to the base at China Lake. He and his family were in the middle of moving to Lamore Naval Air Station when he was killed.

Today, friends and family will gather in Carson City to honor Bayer. Garcia, however, doesn’t think Bayer would want any show of sadness or remorse at his memorial.

“He told me years ago that when he died, he hoped he would have put away a couple of thousand dollars so people could have a party at his funeral,” Garcia said. “He said that he would want people to remember him and the happy times.”

Copyright © 2002 The Reno Gazette-Journal


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