If you ever find yourself lost and have to use your trusty Global Positioning System to navigate back to familiar roads and landmarks, just look to the sky and thank Col. Francis Xavier "Duke" Kane.
The sky is where the military inventor of GPS spent more than 1,000 hours as a command pilot in the Air Force.
His wife of nearly 67 years, Virginia C. Kane, 87, said he even had a quote on his desk that read, "There is a smile on the face of the whole human race because we have our own GPS."
Col. Kane, son of former Allegheny County Commissioner John J. Kane, died July 18 in a Veterans Affairs hospital in San Antonio, Texas. He was 94.
A native of Philadelphia, Col. Kane was raised in Brookline and graduated from South Hills High School in 1936. He attended Duquesne University for a year before graduating from West Point in 1943 with a degree in engineering.
He also obtained a master's degree in political science and a doctorate from Georgetown University.
Col. Kane helped out at the Toner Institute, where he organized the first Boy Scout group. "No Boy Scout in the mountains will be lost because they have GPS," Mrs. Kane said.
According to the San Antonio Express-News, Mrs. Kane met her future husband in 1943 while he was training pilots at Lackland AFB. They married after the war in 1946.
"His dad told him, 'I don't know why you had to go to Texas to find a Polish girl when Pittsburgh has plenty,' " Mrs. Kane laughed.
It was his fascination with "Falcons and France," a book by Charles Bernard Nordhoff and James Norman Hall that Col. Kane picked up as a child, that "lit the fire under the gene to fly," his nephew, John J. Kane III, said.
During World War II, he served as a flight instructor for American, French, British, Dutch and Brazilian pilots.
"The military father of GPS" guided his way into the hearts of others with his leadership and motivation, his nephew said. "Listening to him was like listening to a guru."
After the war, Col. Kane served as an air attache to the U.S. Embassy in Paris and was a member of President Richard Nixon's Space Task Group.
Col. Kane's assignments dealt with policy planning during the evolution of the U.S. space program and helped forward concepts for space-based missile warning and defense plans; space shuttles capable of re-entry; the Peacekeeper missile; and a navigation satellite system that became the basis for NAVSAT and GPS, which people now use in everyday life.
After retiring from the Air Force in 1970, Col. Kane was elected a fellow of both the International Academy of Astronautics and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. A director of strategic systems with Rockwell International from 1981 to 1986, he became the 50th inductee into the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame in 2010.
"He always encouraged youth to build robots and keep the spirit alive in space stations," said his daughter, Kathleen Dove of Los Angeles.
Besides his wife and daughter, he is survived by his sister, Rita Burns of Pasadena, Calif.; and two granddaughters.
A memorial service was held in San Antonio, where Col. Kane and his wife have lived for the past 30 years. He will be buried with full honors in Arlington National Cemetery at a date to be determined.
Kelton Brooks: firstname.lastname@example.org and 412-263-1601.