Work on Tuskegee Airmen tribute in Sewickley finally to begin in June
Funding and lack of a contractor delayed construction two years on the largest outdoor memorial in the country to Tuskegee Airmen, but those problems appear to be resolved, officials said.
Tuskegee Airmen became the military's first black pilots during World War II, but the group also included navigators, bombardiers, instructors and maintenance and support staff.
A memorial in Sewickley Cemetery to honor local airmen will be built starting in June, and completed before a planned Sept. 15 dedication ceremony, said project consultant Rich Dieter, president of Robinson-based Crescendo Group Consultants Inc.
So far, organizers have raised $200,000 of the projected $255,000 cost of the memorial, Dieter said.
A golf outing May 28 at Diamond Run Golf Club in Sewickley could put the Tuskegee Airmen Memorial of the Greater Pittsburgh Region Inc. almost at its goal, said Ronald Hunt of Franklin Park, chairman for the event and a founding trustee of the memorial group. His father, William Hunt, was a crew chief with the Tuskegee Airmen.
More Tuskegee Airmen came from Western Pennsylvania than any other region, said Regis Bobonis Sr., project chairman.
“That said to us that … we should create a living legacy to these men who created such an exciting chapter in aviation history,” he said.
The Tuskegee Airmen Memorial will be built on an 850-square-foot plaza donated by Sewickley Cemetery.
It will include four mourning benches, a large center monument with a bronze relief with images of airmen and a 10-foot-high granite monument with a granite red tail, a salute to the red-painted tails of the airmen's fighter planes, Dieter said.
On each side of the monument will be a tower with the engraved names of the airmen from Western Pennsylvania, Dieter said.
“We're looking at 96,” Bobonis said.
Beaver Falls resident Calvin Smith's name will be among them.
“I appreciate it. It lets people know a bit more of what happened,” said Smith 88, who was a bombardier and second lieutenant with the 477th Bombardment Group.
A ceremonial groundbreaking for the memorial took place in November 2011. Organizers planned to start construction in 2011 and again last summer, but had trouble finding a concrete contractor last year and raising money.
“My theory is, for very large companies, the job was too small. For very small companies, I think they were somewhat dissuaded by a lot of the rules and regulations required when you get county money,” said Dieter. Allegheny County provided a $100,000 grant.
Of the six bids that project organizers received after soliciting requests for proposals last fall and in February, only one company was able to meet county regulations, including one requiring contractors to pay prevailing wages, Dieter said.
He declined to name the company because a contract had not been signed yet. Rochester-based Rome Monument designed the memorial, he said.
There were 2,483 pilot trainees who participated in what was officially known as the “Tuskegee Experience” at Moton Field and Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama from July 19, 1941, to June 28, 1946, according to Tuskegee University.
Of the 996 pilots who graduated, 352 went overseas for combat duty.
Their performance helped pave the way for desegregation of the military, according to the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site.
Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Placement of public car chargers needs to be revved up, experts say
- Mt. Lebanon School District, municipality reach deal on turf field’s maintenance
- Cell tower plan puts South Park residents on edge
- Public’s interest in space endures, Western Pa., national groups say
- Young Achiever: Claire Conti
- Castle Shannon parish plans special Masses for 125th anniversary
- Mt. Lebanon School District moves $2M from reserve fund to capital budget
- Family’s reunion an opportunity to learn history of Pittsburgh Botanic Garden’s land, official say