November 29, 2017

St. Joseph grad who died in Navy plane crash praised as ‘amazing person’

By Peggy Weber

(Photo from U.S. Navy)



PITTSFIELD – “His smile would just light up the world. He was always smiling.”

That is how longtime educator Lillian Quinn remembers Navy Lt. Steven Combs, 28, who died the day before Thanksgiving when his plane crashed in the Philippine Sea.

Combs, a 2007 graduate of the former St. Joseph Central High School in Pittsfield, “was an amazing person,” according to Quinn, who was a teacher and dean at St. Joe’s for 42 years until her retirement in 2014.

“When I heard the news about Steven, I went to the local room of the library. They have all of the yearbooks for St. Joseph High School there. I just went there and sat and looked him up and had a good cry,” she said.

“In every picture he was smiling. He was so friendly. He would go down the hall and say hello to everyone,” she said.

“He was a great athlete, too,” said Quinn. Combs was the captain of the soccer and ski teams at St. Joe’s. “His class was exceptionally close. They really bonded,” she said.

“And I read in the section of the yearbook when the students talked about their future. Steven wrote that 20 years from now he would be a marine pilot with a pet turtle. He became a pilot. Maybe he had a turtle,” said Quinn.

“I am so proud of him becoming a pilot and saving lives and doing just what he was born to do,” said Quinn.

Combs is being hailed as a hero for executing a landing on water that saved the lives of eight of the 11 on the plane.

A spokesman for Naval Air Forces, Cmdr. Ronald Flanders said, “They did not have a lot of notice that they were going to have to ditch just miles from the carrier (USS Ronald Reagan). To use the words of his co-pilot…(Combs) flew the hell out of that plane.”

The Navy states that a posthumous award for Combs is under discussion.