Construction on the Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Project is ready for take off.
Project consultant Rich Dieter of Crescendo Group Consultants, Inc. in McKees Rocks, said the first phase work of the memorial is expected to begin within the next two weeks in the Sewickley Cemetery. Plans include a plaza, four benches and a large monument with a red "tail” on the back.
The first phase work is expected to take about three months, with a December completion, he said.
“Obviously, our plans are contingent upon cooperative weather,” Deiter said. “This will give the public something to see as we continue raising the balance of funds.”
The public will be able to visit the memorial, which will be open to the public. A sign posted on the premises will show the memorial's final version.
John Dioguardi of Rome Monument designed the new and final monument, which was unveiled Sunday during a reception at the Edgeworth Club for trustees, honorary trustees and friends of the project.
Regis Bobonis, historian, founder and chairman of the Tuskegee Memorial Project, said Sunday's unveiling was a culmination of nearly 13 years of research that all began with the Daniel B. Matthews Historical Society. The memorial celebrates the Greater Pittsburgh Tuskegee Airmen legacy and recognizes the history of Western Pennsylvania’s first black military aviators.
“We’ve had our ups and downs, but I have never felt more fulfilled that this project seems to have come to fruition,” Bobonis said.
Work on the overall project is expected to wrap up sometime in summer 2013 based on a fundraising timeline, Deiter said. About $175,000 in fundraising is left to go thanks to a $100,000 grant from Allegheny County's Community Infrastructure and Tourism fund awarded earlier this year. The grant funds will help complete the first portion. The second phase of work begins in March.
As funding is raised, Deiter said additional items will be added to the memorial. A painting commissioned from artist Ray Simon, for example, is set to be affixed onto the large monument during the final phase. The names of more than 80 Western Pennsylvania servicemen will be etched into the stone.
The Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Project has inched closer to reality since a groundbreaking took place nearly a year ago in November.
Bobonis particularly thanked the families of the Tuskegee Airmen for sharing their stories to make it all possible.
“I just feel honored to have been part of this project,” Bobonis said.
Check back with Patch for updates on the construction.