July 25, 2008

Aviation Collection Centerpiece of Veterans Luncheon

By Joe Wolfcale, The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif.

Jul. 24--The letter all military families hope never arrives hangs above a Purple Heart certificate at the entrance of Ed Davis' military aviation museum in his Novato home.

The letter signed by Harry Truman begins "Our deepest sympathiese" It was addressed to the family of Second Lt. Lawrence Downey Jr., killed in battle Dec. 4, 1944.

Downey's Purple Heart memorabilia was given to him by the B-17 pilot's family, but Davis knows little about him. Davis picked up Downey's dusty flight book. His last combat mission was his 25th, and he was coming home.

For more than 35 years, Davis has collected aviation memorabilia from World War I to Vietnam. He picks up items at garage sales, flea markets and book sales and through friends.

He has hundreds of war books, and the walls of one room are lined with bomb sights, compasses and other aviation equipment. Elsewhere are flight helmets and a wooden propeller.

Each piece is a snippet of military aviation history, and Davis will talk about some of it with the 100 or so war veterans who will visit him and his wife, Bonnie, on Saturday.

"I appreciate their privacy and just want them to feel like they can talk to one another," said Davis, 67, a retired electronics engineer. "I want them to feel at ease. I'm really looking forward to seeing all them. I want them to know I appreciated all they did very much."

One of his prized possessions is a Norden bomb sight, a once top-secret apparatus. He has a clock from a Russian M-29

fighter, flight jackets, flare guns, expended munitions and a sampling of other memorabilia.

He's always been fascinated with aviation, but when it was his time to join the service, his eyesight kept him out of the military.

He and Bonnie, who was a flight attendant for Trans World Airlines, were married in the cockpit of a Piper Cherokee June 19, 1987 as it flew over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Bonnie will put together a buffet for the veterans to enjoy while they tell war stories.

The luncheon has been an annual ritual for the veterans for 30 years. Davis calls it his "Mission to Novato."

"So many guys have been here," Bonnie said. "It's up to us so that they're not forgotten."

Contact Joe Wolfcale via e-mail at [email protected]

Read more Novato stories at the IJ's Novato section.


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