Anniversary Founders Series: Joe Fabick

Joe Fabick, whose father founded the John Fabick Tractor Company in 1917, was one of the Wings of Hope founders.

It started in the summer of 1963 when a St. Louis businessman named Bill Edwards invited Joe to his home for a presentation about missionaries working in Kenya. What caught Joe’s eye was an 8mm film showing a nun flying through the desert in a small fabric plane delivering care and supplies to the communities in need. The hyenas had been gnawing away at the fabric wings. So, Bill and Joe made it their mission to raise the funds to send Sister Ryan a metal plane.

That impulse of two friends who wanted to help one flying nun halfway across the world was the beginning of Wings of Hope.

On May 25, 1965, Joe presided at the sendoff ceremony at Lambert Airport of the very first Wings of Hope plane being sent into the field — and the Fabick family has been a steadfast supporter ever since.

Joe’s son, Jeré, continued the tradition of generously supporting Wings of Hope. And Kelli Fabick is the fifth generation of the Fabick family to serve Wings of Hope.

“I never met my uncle Joe, but I was always aware of his legacy — not only as the second-generation leader of the Fabick Cat Company but as a driving force behind Wings of Hope,” Kelli says. “As a current Wings of Hope board director and proud member of the Fabick family, I am honored to be a part of our shared legacy.”

A Man of the Earth — and Sky

Joe grew up in St. Louis where his father, John, owned a tractor dealership — and the John Fabick Tractor Company grew into one of the largest Caterpillar dealerships in the country.

Joe and his two older brothers eventually took over the company, which Joe would lead for 38 years.

Although Joe’s company built machines that moved the earth, he always loved the sky. An accomplished pilot, he would fly his plane over construction sites to get a birds-eye view of the progress.

He also flew helicopters. In 1948, when he was only 21, he was thought to be the youngest helicopter pilot in the world at that time.

Joe Fabick grew his company into one of the largest Caterpillar dealers in the world with his drive “to ever serve customers better.” Joe viewed humanitarian service through that same lens — always seeking to better serve those in need by expanding the reach of Wings of Hope’s humanitarian programming across countries and continents.

Joe was a true visionary.

In a 1974 Wings of Hope newsletter, he is quoted saying: “In the years ahead, Wings of Hope will continue to provide services exactly as they always have: free of charge as an interfaith organization serving the cause of international brotherhood.”

As we embark on our sixth decade of using aviation to save and change lives, we can see that Joe’s vision was right.

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