Donation boosts fund for Duluth statue of former Tuskegee airmanEfforts to create a life-size statue of Duluth resident and Tuskegee Airman Joe Gomer for the new Duluth International Airport terminal have received a major boost.
By: News Tribune staff, Duluth News Tribune
Efforts to create a life-size statue of Duluth resident and Tuskegee Airman Joe Gomer for the new Duluth International Airport terminal have received a major boost.
Thomson Reuters of Eagan, Minn., this week donated $15,000 to the Northland Veterans Services Committee for the project. The firm made the donation at the suggestion of its chief operating officer for technology, Rick King.
King sees the statue as a way to both honor Gomer — whom he knows — and pique people’s interest in the stories of combat veterans.
“I don’t want those stories to just disappear,” King said. “I looked at the statue as a way for the public to get interested.”
“We wanted to make sure they have enough to get things going,” King said of the donation. “It’s about trying to make sure this gets done in a relatively timely fashion.”
The Northland Veterans Services Committee needs to raise about $42,000 to produce a life-sized bronze statue of Gomer in his flight suit. The story of Gomer, the World War II Tuskegee Airmen and civil rights will be inscribed on the statue’s base. University of
Wisconsin-Superior sculpture professor Tim Cleary will produce it.
“This is absolutely incredible. This puts us more than halfway there,” Durbin Keeney of the veterans committee said of the donation. “If it happens that we get more money than we need we want to do more in Joe’s name. We talked today about looking at a flight scholarship at Lake Superior College.”
The group hopes to have the statue finished in time for Gomer’s 92nd birthday on June 20.
Gomer flew 68 combat missions in World War II as a fighter pilot in an all-black Army Air Corps unit that played a major role in integrating the military and helped pave the way for the Civil Rights Movement. The outfit was called the Tuskegee Airmen for the Alabama air base where many of them trained. Keeney said the statue project has taught people about the outfit’s history and importance.
King and his wife became friends with Gomer and his wife, Elizabeth, several years ago after meeting at an airshow in Eden Prairie, Minn. The annual event highlights people who have been on air combat missions. When King started going, many of the combat pilots were from World War II and Korea.
“These people are getting older, they die off, their stories go away,” King said. “It is important to try to capture these stories so that kids who are younger or even not born yet can actually experience some of these things. We are glad to be part of something like this project.”
In addition to owning Reuters news services, Thomson Reuters provides information to businesses and professionals in several fields. With headquarters in New York and major operations in London and Eagan, the firm employs more than 55,000 people and operates in more than 100 countries. The Eagan office became a Yellow Ribbon company late last year for its support of servicemen and women.