AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREStriving toward a more perfect me: Doug McIntyre Stubborn and faithful to the end, he refused surgery earlier in the week after doctors told him the aneurysm ticking inside him could take his life at any moment. Crash thanked them for their concern, but said he was going home to the house he had shared with the love of his life, his wife Ev, who died six months ago. Life without her seemed kind of pointless, Crash said. If his time was up, it was up. He’d go see Ev again. “Two nights later, he was gone,” said Lee Auger, who drove Crash around town because the man who cheated death a hundred times in the air didn’t like his chances on the ground. “Crash thought driving was too dangerous,” Auger said. “He had 26 aircraft carrier landings before he ever had a driver’s license.” His mother called him Fred, but none of his buddies ever did. He was “Crash” – the affable, funny ex-Navy pilot who earned his nickname by crashing five U.S. Corsair fighter planes on landing during training missions at the end of World War II. “The joke was, Crash got rid of more of our planes than the whole Japanese air force,” says Gene “Bomber” Koscinski. “He was their ace.” No one laughed harder at the backhanded compliment than Fred “Crash” Blechman, who died at 80 on Wednesday night in his West Hills home. Crash walked away uninjured from each one of those landing mishaps, but he couldn’t walk away from this last one. About 9:30 a.m. Monday, more than 70 of Crash’s buddies in the Wings Over Wendy’s group will gather at the West Hills fast-food restaurant to eulogize the man who brought them all together eight years ago. They’re all former service pilots, bombardiers, aircraft engineers and mechanics from World War II and the Korean War, living in the Valley, who didn’t know each other until Crash invited them over to Wendy’s to share a 99-cent burger lunch and their stories. When I met them in 2002, there were 10 members. After the story ran, membership jumped to 25 by the next week, then 40 a week later. Last Monday, 72 aviation veterans sat around the tables, having coffee and trading stories with Crash. The group had grown so large that Wendy’s owner Ron Ross asked if the veterans could maybe meet a little earlier so he’d have more tables available for the lunch crowd. Crash said sure, no problem. They were just grateful to Ross for allowing them to use his restaurant as a meeting place every Monday morning. “These men were part of America’s greatest generation,” Ross said Friday. “It’s an honor to have them in my restaurant. I’m going to miss Crash. He was the glue.” Crash didn’t play favorites if you wanted to join Wings Over Wendy’s. If you were a flyboy or crew member, you were in – even if you fought for the other side. Mike Karatsonyi of Studio City, who died last year, walked into Wendy’s one day in 2003 to see if he could join the group. Mike told the guys he flew Messerschmitt Me-109’s during the war. Yeah, for the Germans. The guys told him to grab a cup of coffee and sit down. “When his native Hungary was taken over by Hitler, Mike was given two choices: fly for the Luftwaffe or go to a concentration camp, ” Auger said. “He defended his country, did what he had to do. We all respected that.” Crash didn’t want any fuss made over his death. He didn’t want a funeral or flowers. He certainly didn’t want any tears. All he wanted were for his ashes to be scattered over the hills near Santa Paula Airport where his buddy Mickey Epstein’s ashes were scattered a few years ago. Mickey was a flight engineer in B-24 Liberator bombers during World War II and started Wings Over Wendy’s with Crash. He’s credited with coming up with the “Crash” nickname. Fred said he thought about it for a few seconds, put down his 99-cent burger and started to laugh. “Crash” Blechman. Perfect.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!