Gallery of Aviation A tribute to Steve Stuczynski.
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In May of 2000 Le Roy and Steve drove to Hallock, MN to pick up 5 weathervane airplanes for display at the Gallery of Aviation. He purchased 2 painted P-51s, 1 painted F4U, 1 painted AT-6, and 1 unpainted F4U that Steve was unsure exactly how he wanted it painted. He knew he wanted to do it in a pylon-racing scheme but wanted to think about the paint scheme. Steve worked hard to design and, set into concrete, the display poles for 2 of the weathervanes he would display outside. He knew his time was short but he wanted to enjoy the airplanes as long as he could.

On the trip back we stopped at Bob Odegaard’s immaculate airplane restoration facility to see his restored Cook Cleland, Cleveland Air Race #57, F2G-1D Super Corsair. Bob is in the process of restoring another of Cook Cleland's Super Corsairs. This time it's the FG-1D #74 which was rescued from Walter Soplata’s aircraft junkyard near Cleveland. I talked to Bob Odegaard about the project at EAA 2008 and he says it will also race. Steve had visited Walter’s place and photographed the actual bill of sale from Cook Cleland for thIS airplane’s purchase.

About 2 weeks before Steve died his son Le Roy finished painting and assembling the “Gallery of Aviation” Corsair and the display pylon; all done to the design specifications of Steve. While Steve only got to see the finished airplane once, it was something he wanted to see before he died and Le Roy cherishes the memory of completing the project and leading Steve to the window to view the “Gallery of Aviation” Pylon Racer Corsair. Le Roy took the airplane down and set it up at Steve’s memorial service. The airplane was returned to its “home pylon” until the Gallery contents was relocated. The Racer is now permanently located in a garden at St. Peter Catholic Church as a memorial to Steve. Steve was a Charter Member there and it is where his memorial service was held including the AT-6A flyovers by Harry Thompson and Jason as described in another photo section.

Steve enjoyed attending the annual weeklong EAA event in Oshkosh. In fact he even attended the EAA event at Rockford, IL before it moved to Oshkosh. When the Oshkosh facility was being built he was a “100% for Aviation” contributor toward the project and his “brick” is displayed at the EAA museum. Below is only a sample of shots of the vast camaraderie Steve affiliated with over the years of his attendance at the event. Steve was an avid and very professional photographer who amassed about 40,000 color slides of air shows and aviation displays throughout the nation, many of which were taken at the annual EAA event. Le Roy now has the collection of slides.

When Steve died, his son Le Roy said to himself “what can I do for dad that would really be special”? Of Course! A World War II Warbird fly by. Le Roy presented the idea to his family and they agreed wholeheartedly. “But how could you possibly pull that off” they said? That’s where Le Roy leaned on Steve’s lifetime motto of “the difficult we do right away and the impossible takes just a little longer”. Le Roy wasn’t exactly sure where this charge fell within the motto but he knew that with the help of the Lord and fellow EAA Warbirds, it could be done.

Le Roy called Harry Thompson, Brookings, SD and informed him of Steve’s death and what he was trying to accomplish. Steve and Le Roy had been camping in the Warbirds campground for the last 4 years and had become close friends with Harry. To make a long story short, Harry came through with “flying colors” and the family was honored by 4 fly bys by Harry and my son Jason in “Tigger”, a 1941 North American AT-6A, at the outside portion of Steve’s memorial service on September 30, 2000.

That evening Harry gave AT-6 rides to each of the family. You can see some of the pictures of “Tigger’s” big day in Madison, WI. Thanks Harry and “Tigger”.

Steve started his aviation related memorabilia collection in one corner of his home basement but in 1988, when the collection outgrew its space, he built a 900 square foot, two level, addition to his family home to display his incredible collection. About 2,100 square feet was dedicated to the museum. A local newspaper ran an article about the undertaking titled “Vet’s Collection Takes Flight”. Since Steve’s death the same newspaper did a follow-up article about Steve and the family’s intent to continue to share the “Gallery” with all who have an interest in aviation. Below are some pictures of the museum and tours were available by appointment at no charge until the Gallery's closing. That’s the way Steve intended the “Gallery” to be shared and the family carried out his wish until its disposition.

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