WINONA – Local efforts are underway to construct a memorial to honor aviators, all native of Montgomery County.
According to Winona Mayor Jerry Flowers, a group of volunteers are currently raising funds to construct a memorial to honor the late Colonel Donald Peterson, an American astaunaut, as well as Ensign William Devote Billingsley, the first naval aviator to die in the line of duty, and Chief Master Sergeant Calvin ‘Cal’ Hobbs, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen.
According to Flowers, the memorial will cost $150,000 to complete, and volunteers are hoping it can be constructed on the southwestern corner of Middleton Road and Highway 51.
“I would like the City of Winona to donate $10,000 toward the cost of the project,” Flowers said. “The cost is $150,000, and the rest will be raised by the community.”
Flowers said the city will seek permission from the state legislature to make the donation. Funds will come from revenue raised from the city’s two percent tourism tax.
“[These men] were big parts of history,” Flowers said. “And they are from Winona.”
The board voted to seek permission to make the donation.
According to Marcus Lawson, chairman of the Donald Peterson Memorial Fund, the committee is working to secure $38,000 of the $150,000 in donations before January 1 to “ensure travel to Huntsville and the making of the maquette in the exact likeness of Col. Peterson.”
“We still have a ways to go,” said Lawson.
Efforts to honor Peterson came shortly after Peterson’s death May 27, 2018. A group of citizens and community leaders gathered to determine a way of memorializing Peterson’s legacy as a specialist on STS-6 on board Challenger. Peterson’s historic flight was on April 4, 1984, and he performed a spacewalk to test new space suits.
Not long after, volunteers decided to honor Winona’s roots in aviation with a memorial to all three notable aviators from Winona.
In other city business:
• Winona Water Superintendent Frank Faulkner is seeking costs to install a larger water pipe and a pumping station on Small Road near Greensboro to better serve the residents in the area.
• The board gave its approval for Fire Chief Brad Mooneyham to apply for a Rural Development Grant to purchase self-containained breathing apparatus. According to Mooneyham, his department does not have enough apparatus for every fulltime firefighter, and at approximately $7,000 each, the budget does not allow for the outright purchase of the equipment. Flowers told the board the grant will require a 35 percent city match, and fire rebate money can be used as matching funds.
• The board dismissed condemnation proceedings for property at 516 Church Street.
• The board approved spending up to $2,500 to get the city in compliance with MDOT requirements for railroad crossing signage.