Daniel Busta

Daniel N. Busta

Friday, March 3rd, 1950 - Thursday, March 12th, 2020
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Former American Trans Air pilot Daniel N. Busta, 70, known for his smooth landings, was cleared for his final take-off. As the sun was rising on March 12, 2020, Dan made his ascent with much peace, surrounded by family and love. Dan graduated in 1968 from Morton East High School in Cicero, Illinois and spent countless hours playing with his neighborhood buddies on South Austin Boulevard.

After coursework at Roosevelt College, Dan became a professional French horn player in the South Florida Symphony. It was during this time that he discovered his passion for flying. He saved his money, often eating only oranges and popcorn, to gather the funds for flying lessons. He knew aviation was his calling and earned his pilot's license at age 20.

Dan wore many hats throughout his life. He was a Hinsdale police officer when he met his first wife Julie, with whom he had three children, Lynée, Ashlee, and Daniel. During this time, he yearned to return to anything aviation-related. To pay the bills and gain expertise, he worked for Chicago Communication and Motorola, installing communications antennas on many of our favorite buildings that make up the Chicago skyline, including what we knew as the Standard Oil Building and Sears Tower.

Dan took second and third jobs as a mechanic for Braniff Airlines, started his own marine radio repair business, gave music lessons, and always did what was necessary to support the family and pursue his passions. He eventually put himself through school to earn his commercial pilot’s license and ratings to fly the Boeing 727 and Lockheed L-1011.

Dan had what his mother called an “itchy heel,” and his aviation career as a commercial pilot with Evergreen and American Trans Air gave him the freedom to explore new cultures. One of his greatest achievements during his piloting career was having the opportunity to circumnavigate the globe.

He was committed to a lifetime of learning and sharing that knowledge with anyone who would listen. Dan was not only a husband, dad, grandpa, uncle, son, brother, and friend, but also a man of Christ. He always made us laugh and had impeccable timing. Dan had the utmost respect for all who have served.

For over 55 years, Dan was a ham radio operator at W9GOB and achieved its highest distinction. He connected with people all over the world, trading QSL cards. He was an active member of the Six Meter Club of Chicago, and a ham radio club called the Grumpy’s. We all joked that Dan collected friends, and each one was more special than the next in his eyes.

Dan instilled in us all a love of flying, music, skating, caring for others, learning, and having faith. These characteristics were evident through his courage, determination, bravery, and curiosity.

With all of these joys and passions, he also led a 25-year journey of medical miracles. Shortly before his cancer diagnosis, Dan met the love of his life, Cheryl A. Gadbois. A 30-year marriage, their son Christian, and Dan’s strong commitment to them and God gave him strength. Cheryl always supported his passions, and they found Jesus together. Cheryl and Dan were devoted to each other and were constant companions.

At 44, he was diagnosed with leukemia. His then 15-year-old son Daniel donated bone marrow to save Dan’s life. During this time, the family took turns living in Houston close to MD Anderson Cancer Center, where Dan spent many months in treatment and healing. Intense radiation resulted in subsequent cancers, kidney failure, dialysis, a kidney transplant, a stroke, a heart attack, and oral cancer. Through all of this Dan NEVER complained.

Years later, Dan would become the only pilot to have double transplants (bone marrow and later the kidney) and have his aviation credentials reinstated.

Until the end, Dan was teaching his children and grandchildren about electronics, watching James Bond movies, playing catch with marshmallows, and reading the paper. He loved sharing relevant articles with friends and family, advising and counseling his children through their days, and blowing out the candles on his birthday cake to celebrate reaching 70. He made us laugh the whole time.

Dan was a role model by always helping those in need, something he learned during time spent at the Boys Club of Cicero in his youth. He later helped many ham radio operators who were visually impaired to repair radios and attend club meetings. His arms were always outstretched to take anyone in who needed his help.

At Palos Bible Church, Dan was a deacon, taught Awana, and played the French horn and shofar during special services. He never missed a Sunday, devoted as he was to his religious path. He was a member of the Prime Timers and could be found making pancakes during Easter Sunday brunch. Dan recalled to Cheryl his last service on March 1, remarking on the joy that he felt looking down the pew to see each of his children with an open Bible on their laps, following along during the service.

Dan would not want us to dwell on his physical absence. Our modern-day MacGyver would want you to go the extra mile, to stay on the rail, and, most of all, to trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Born March 3, 1950, Dan was the son of Nicholas and Marie and is survived by his beloved wife of 30 years, Cheryl (Gadbois), and son Christian; former spouse Julie (Foersterling) and their children, Lynée (Daniel Wells), Ashlee (Miro Kovacevic), and Daniel; grandchildren Nicholas, Emmarie, EllaLee, and Lucy; his sister Lynda (Gary Rovansek); and nephews Gregory and Christopher and niece Jennifer (Albert Miranda).

Visitation and Memorial Service is pending. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to

Lifeline Chaplaincy (,
To Donate Online Press Here

The Chicago Lighthouse (,
To Donate Online Press Here

Boys Club of Cicero (
To Donate Online Press Here

Please follow the Colonial Chapel and Dan’s Tribute for any additional information about the Visitation and Memorial Service given the state of our world health crisis. 708-532-5400
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Service Details

  • Visitation

    Palos Bible Church
    12701 S. 70th Ave.
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email
    Visitation and Memorial Service Pending
  • Service

    Palos Bible Church
    12701 S. 70th Avenue
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email
    Visitation and Memorial Service Pending


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Thomas Smicklas

Posted at 10:28pm
I enjoyed and appreciated my musical friendship with Dan in the Morton High School Band and Orchestra. He was a fine hornist and a fine person. I had an opportunity to speak again with Dan years ago at a High School Music Department reunion and we humored each other with stories only Morton Music Department insiders would appreciate - the characters, the fine student musicians and the traditions. Dan led a most interesting and challenging life. I am sure he will be missed by his family and I express my condolences to them. I will always remember him fondly.

Thomas Smicklas
Bolivia, NC


Posted at 10:58am
my name is Steve Mcgrath. i became a new member of amateur radio in june of 2019. i became a grumpy and met Dan on the morning meetings . he was asking for help with his antenna i i offered to help. it never happened , talking to Dan on the phone and listening to his Intelligence on the radio on all subjects was very inspiring. i'm so saddened with his loss and will miss his voice on the air.

Randy Brookins

Posted at 02:38pm
Wow - what a wonderful reflection of our Lord and Savior! So many lives he touched. I'm privileged to have known Dan. A few stories none would appreciate unless you were there, but I do want to share that I currently have several gospel tracks that Dan had printed years ago in our car (skateboarder with cross in background to those aware), of which will continue to carry on his desire to tell others of Christ. Thank you for being such a great role model to me Dan!

Linda Rios

Posted at 02:11pm
I was in high school band with Dan. I knew he was a special person with some sparkle to add to life. But although I am very sad to learn of his health struggles and passing, I am absolutely amazed and impressed by the man he became and all he accomplished. Heaven will be even more beautiful with his French Horn playing. My deepest condolences to his family. With tears in my eyes and heart...Linda Erickson Rios, Flute, Morton East Class of 1967

Siwei Li

Posted at 05:54pm
Dear Dan

I'm sorry for not being there and not being more in touch with you. Thank you for being my friend over 20 years ago, when I was just starting out to play the French Horn.
You were always so generous and kind to me, like a father figure. I will always remember my first trip to the US to visit you and your family.
Until we meet again, will always remember you and the wonderful memories.
Thank you Christian for letting me know. I hope to come back soon and catch up with you and Cheryl to honour Dan's memory
Take care and my sincerest condolences

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