Dr. Otto "Bud" Prier was all about serving others.
Whether it was as an optometrist, a member of the Kiwanis Club, an amateur historian or a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps, the gregarious Prier, who died early today at 94, devoted himself to service.
"He just loved his community and his country," Robinson Mayor Roger Pethtel said.
"He was a great guy," Pethtel added. "He could be a character, but he was a lovable guy. I really enjoyed the opportunity to talk to him. He will be missed."
Prier graduated from Robinson High School in 1937. From 1938 to 1942, he studied optometry at Northern Illinois University in Dekalb. He was drafted during World War II, but his enlistment was deferred because he was in optometry school, deemed essential to the war effort. He finally joined the Army Air Corps at 24.
Prier loved planes, dating back to his first flight in a Ford Trimotor as a boy.
Between the first and second world wars, barnstorming was a way for pilots to make money between paid flying jobs. Having a plane land near your town offering rides in the late 1920s and early 1930s was like having the circus come to town.
"It was a thrill for a 12- or 13 year-old boy," Prier recalled in 2011. It was a brief flight - no more than 10 or 15 minutes - but the thrill lasted a lifetime. He still looked back on it fondly decades later, despite having logged thousands of hours of additional flight time.
He was always the first to say he was not a combat veteran, but his contribution in the last days of WWII may have saved thousands of American lives.
Prier worked on the then-secret Norden Bombsight project. The sight allowed bombardiers to control the airplane and accurately hit targets.
"I was five days out when Japan signed the armistice," Prier said. He later spent his time in Japan training bombardiers and pilots how to use the sight.
"He was the most amazing man, without a doubt," past Robinson Kiwanis President Joe Davis told the Daily News.
In October, he was honored by the Robinson Kiwanis for his 65 years as a member.
"That is over 3,000 lousy meals and meetings," Prier joked at the time. "It has been very enjoyable." Prier joined the group in October 1948, less than 13 years after it was formed.
Prier knew the club history well, Davis said, recalling a story he shared with him when Davis became president. When the group formed, it met at the Woodworth Hotel. Its first president was the owner of the Chrysler dealership across the street. The hotel is long gone, but the dealership, while it has undergone many changes, is still around and employs Davis.
"He was full of things like that," Davis said. "Whenever we had a program on history, he always had the most interesting little tidbits to add. You can imagine the impact of losing a member like Bud will have."
Prier also was active in the Crawford County Historical Society. "He was an integral part," Secretary Sue Jones said. He served on the board of directors for many years and donated several items that are now on display at the museum in Robinson.
"He will be sadly missed," she said.
Funeral arrangements are pending at Pulliam Funeral Home, Robinson.