Memorial to get facelift

Firm that painted U-505 to restore Sabre jet in Ehlert Park

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A Korean War-era jet that stands as a war memorial in a Brookfield park will get a much-needed face-lift this spring and the work could be finished prior to Memorial Day.

Village Manager Riccardo Ginex announced last week that the village will spend just over $8,500 to have the jet repainted, courtesy of the same company responsible for the exterior paint job of the U-505 submarine on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

The village set aside $5,000 for the jet restoration in its 2008 budget. According to Ginex, the balance of the funding will come from the amount reserved for recreation fencing. Initially, Brookfield set aside $40,000 for fencing in its budget. A $20,000 grant from Lyons Township that will go toward a new backstop and foul line fencing at Jaycee/Ehlert Park freed up enough to make up the difference for the plane restoration, Ginex said.

Public Works Superintendent Al Kitzer contacted Cantigny Park in Wheaton, which houses the First Division Museum and a collection Army tanks and other vehicles.

Cantigny put him in touch with National Decorating Service, an Oakbrook-based firm that had completed restoration of one of Cantigny's tanks in 2007 and had previously painted the U-505.

Andrew Hart, VP/project manager for National Decorating Service, said that work on the Brookfield jet will begin as soon as the weather gets above 50 degrees at night. He's already been to the site to survey the jet's condition.

The company will set up scaffolding around the jet and give it a power washing to remove any loose paint and dirt. A crew of two men will work to repaint the plane, using high-performance aluminum urethane paint. They aim to match the current silver fuselage and wing color. They will also repaint the black nose cone and reapply the red, white and blue insignia and striping.

In addition, they will seal any cracks or openings in the fuselage to prevent birds from nesting there.

"When we were there we saw some birds flying in and out of it," Hart said. "There may be an opening in the flaps. If there's any nesting there, we'll try to close it off."

The work should take "two weeks at the longest," said Hart, who stated the work would be completed prior to June 1.

"This will last a good five years before you'll see any fading," Hart said.

The F86L Sabre jet which stands just east of the main parking lot of Jaycee /Ehlert Park, has been on display there since the fall of 1961. The plane had a special connection to Brookfield, having been the very jet flown during the Korean War by Frederick McGuire, who later became village manager of Brookfield.

Through McGuire's efforts, the jet wound up in Brookfield. By 1978, the memorial was in poor condition-its cockpit canopy smashed and its nook and crannies the home for birds. It received a makeover in the early 1980s, but the condition was such that by the mid-1990s, the village was considering getting rid of the plane.

Kit Ketchmark, who was elected village trustee in 2001, along with members of his family proposed to restore the plane and raised $4,000 for the effort. The plane was rededicated on Veterans Day 1994.

"At a family gathering we were saying that it seemed ridiculous that a memorial was going to be gotten rid of because no one took care of it," Ketchmark said. "Our point was that the village should have been taking care of it all along."

Ketchmark said he's pleased the village has taken on the role of maintaining the plane, saying that's what should have been done in the decades prior to his 1994 effort.

"I'm glad that people stepped up in 1994 and helped us with it," Ketchmark said. "Now it's a maintenance project. When we did it, the paint manufacturer told us it'd be good for 15 years. Well, it's 15 years and it's time."

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