Joe Sahakian was a longtime Fresno businessman who loved to fly. He was a pilot, an inventor and a crew chief for President Harry Truman.
Sahakian didn't let his sixth grade education stop him from being a success. He excelled in the military and in business in Fresno. He loved to fly. His wife Coe says at age nine Joe cut a deal with a training pilot at an airfield in New Jersey. "He would mow acres of lawn on the push mower for one lesson of flying because they had no money. And his parents didn't want him to fly anyway."
His second love as a kid was music. He played the drums and clarinet. But don't bother giving him a sheet of music. "He didn't know any notes. It was all by ear. If you sing the song or hum the song he could play the whole thing back for you."
Those two loves made Joe a member of the 503rd Army Air Corp Unit in Panama during World War Two. For kicks he got to play the drums during USO shows.
Later he received orders from Washington D.C. President Harry Truman made him the crew chief on the Presidential aircraft the Sacred Cow. After his stint in the military he and Coe were married and found their way to Fresno. "He was a jack of all trades. He could fix anything. Fix the roof, fix this, do everything. He was a great person."
For years Joe Sahakian fixed cars at his longtime business J–C Automotive in Downtown Fresno. When he wasn't repairing cars he and his wife were flying their kids to the coast or the mountains.
He was a product of the so called greatest generation. At his funeral Wednesday there was a flyover by his pilot friends and then a 21 gun salute for the World War Two Veteran. His daughter Susan Rivas says he was one of a kind. "He would give you the shirt off his back to cover yours if you needed it. If you needed anything that he had he would give it to you. And if you brought it back that was great and if you didn't he didn't hold a grudge."
While working for North American Aviation in the '40s and '50s Joe invented safety wire pliers. The tool twists the safety wire that secures all of the nuts and bolts. It's still used today. Joe got 45 dollars and a turkey for an invention that made North American millions.
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