Construction of long-awaited Tuskegee Memorial at Sewickley Cemetery finally set to begin
After years of planning, researching, designing and fundraising, construction on the long-awaited Tuskegee Memorial is scheduled to begin this week at Sewickley Cemetery.
Crescendo Group Consultants Inc. President Rich Dieter said Penn Hills-based Satira Construction will do the work on the $250,000 memorial honoring the western Pennsylvanians who were affiliated with the all-black Army Air Corps Unit.
It's been a long road, one that begin in the early '90s, when “a group of amateur historians from Sewickley, Pa., took the first step in a long journey,” said Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Project founder and chairman Regis Bobonis Sr. about the group from the Daniel B. Matthews Historical Society that began research on the airmen.
Now, two decades later, they will have in place the largest outdoor memorial in the country.
“I think the general feeling is pretty overwhelmed but also excitement to bring attention to what (the airmen) did,” Dieter said of those who have been involved in the project for years.
The memorial includes the plaza, four mourning benches, eight headstones, a monument boasting a Red Tail airplane and another featuring a bronze relief of Tuskegee Airmen of western Pennsylvania and two granite towers with names of 96 pilots, navigators, bombardiers and support crew members from the region.
By the Sept. 15 dedication, everything except for the two granite towers will be in place unless all of the names to be included on it are verified and a sponsor is secured.
The cost of the towers is not included in the $250,000 figure, and the price of those will be determined based upon market value at the time of ordering and how many names will be engraved on them, according to Dieter.
As important as the project is, education is paramount, Dieter said.
“We want the story of what the Tuskegee Airmen accomplished to be in the minds of everybody.
“What those men and women did to help defeat the Nazis was incredible,” he said and added what might be even more impressive was that “these people were challenging discrimination, not only in the military, but in their communities.”
In an effort to further educate the public about and commemorate the local Tuskegee Airmen, project officials unveiled in February plans for a large exhibit to be constructed at Pittsburgh International Airport.
The exhibit, scheduled to be completed in early September, measures 22 feet wide and 16 feet deep and will feature photos of airmen, as well as memorabilia.
The exhibit will be located in Concourse A and remain in place for up to five years, Dieter said.
A press conference at the airport on Sunday kicked off a corporate sponsorship campaign to raise funds for the approximately $35,000 exhibit, as well to pay for events leading up to the Sept. 15 dedication at Sewickley Cemetery, including a reception and concert featuring Josh White Jr. at the Edgeworth Club; an off-Broadway play, “Black Angels Over Tuskegee,” on Sept. 14 at the Byham Theater in Pittsburgh; and smaller Tuskegee Airmen exhibits at the Homewood, Hill District, Allegheny and South Side branches of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and the Sewickley Public Library.
“Undoubtedly, there's going to be a couple more smaller activities that will be added from now until September,” Dieter said.
The corporate sponsorship also will pay for maintenance at the cemetery site for years to come, Tuskegee Airmen educational opportunities and a sign about the memorial to be erected in the Village leading up to the dedication.
“The verbal response so far has been really good,” Dieter said.
Kristina Serafini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1405 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.