WEST JORDAN — Helicopter pilot James Linder was the kind of father — doting, attentive, thoughtful — that his brother hopes to be soon and the kind his own father now wonders about.

Raymond Linder's father was killed in World War II when Ray was only 2 years old.

"I never knew him," Ray said Friday during funeral services for his son James. "Could James have been that father I never knew?"

Utah National Guard pilots James Linder and Clayton Barnes were both killed Monday when their Apache helicopter crashed west of Utah Lake during a training flight. He will be buried today in Parowan, leaving behind his wife, Melinda, and their three boys.

Funeral and burial services for Barnes will also take place today, in Payson. It's expected that two Apache helicopters from the Arizona National Guard will conduct honorary flyovers at both burial services.

About 500 people — and a sea of green uniforms — turned out Friday to remember Linder, 33, who followed his dream to fly. Along with Barnes they flew Apaches in Afghanistan in 2004-05 with 1st Battalion, 211th Aviation unit.

Ray Linder acknowledged that "flying attack helicopters is a dangerous business" but that his son also had a job that he "couldn't wait to get to."

"How many of us can say that?" Ray asked.

But he loved his family even more, and James Linder's father remembered his son as the "Pied Piper" of children. "They followed him everywhere," he said.

"His boys idolize their father," Ray said. "He was a much better father than I."

Any day now the wife of James' brother Jason Linder will be having the couple's first baby. Jason said he hopes to emulate his brother's devotion to his own children.

"My brother has always been an inspiration and hero to me," Jason said.

As a child, James quickly built a reputation for a flare for details. Jason joked how he retired from playing with Legos because his brother was so good at building the most intricate creations.

Father, son and sister all remembered a "choking" incident while on a family trip when James, only around 8 at the time, devised what he thought was the most judicious way of dividing up a bag of Skittles candy, sorting them first by color. When James learned that Jason had pilfered an unjust portion of yellow Skittles, Ray had to pull the car over to stop James from strangling his brother — it was one of several stories during the funeral that made those listening laugh and remember a sense of humor shared by Linder and Barnes.

"You never saw James get angry," said his sister Donna Parry. "It's probably the last time I've ever seen him mad."

Friends and family remembered James as the man who could fix anything. He painted with watercolors. He turned a hobby of building model helicopters into an internationally known side business out of his home in West Jordan.

Chief Warrant Officer Bruce Remund, a member of Linder's battalion, said guardsmen knew Linder as "The Brain," able to take any complex problem, explain it in simple terms, "and you still wouldn't know what he was talking about," Remund said.

He also praised the skills of Linder and Barnes. "They are the most competent pilots I know and we'll miss them terribly," Remund said.

The cause of the accident that killed both pilots is under investigation.

Teresa Curtis, Melinda's sister and wife of state lawmaker Greg Curtis, said during her eulogy that James was a calming influence on those around him, the smartest guy in the class, an instigator of "tickle wars" with his boys and the father who, upon request, could make a pancake into any kind of animal for his children. Last weekend the Curtis and Linder families were together for an outing.

"We will miss him deeply," Curtis said. "We will be able to see James again in the life to come."


E-mail: sspeckman@desnews.com