Holding On To History: Proctor military memorial airplane stabilized to avoid collapse

Proctor's F101 Voodoo was at risk of falling down after last winter.
Proctor's F101 Voodoo was at risk of falling down after last winter.(kbjr)
Published: Jul. 10, 2023 at 9:58 PM CDT
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PROCTOR, MN. (Northern News Now) - The F101 Voodoo flew 35,000 combat sorties in the Vietnam War. 33 were shot down due to enemy fire. In December 1971, one was lost in a training accident near the Twin Ports. Proctor residents Captains James Verville and Sherman Gonyea were members of the 148th Fighter Group as it was known back then. They were killed when their plane’s engines failed just after take-off. On July 4th 1974, Jake Benson’s newspaper, the Proctor Journal, covered the installation of an F101 on a pedestal as a tribute to the lost pilots.

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“It was at the height of Vietnam where such memorials were not popular but these two men who perished in the training accident were very popular.” said Jake Benson.

49 years on the pedestal have not been kind to the aircraft. It is inspected for safety every year and Benson, who is also a Proctor city councilor, says problems were found after last year’s hard winter. The Voodoo was at risk of falling to the ground. Assistance came from the 148th Fighter Wing as it’s now known. They were eager to preserve the plane that honors two of their own.

“The 148th Fabrication Group came and solved that problem and the city is now working on its insurance company to make some additional improvements.” said Benson.

Next year, the F101 memorial will turn 50. Proctor is already planning a Memorial Day ceremony. Air Force veteran Scott Markle tells us the Air Force family of the Northland will always remember Verville and Gonyea.

“It hits us hard, any veteran that we lose but the Air Force in particular of course but any veteran of course.” said Markle who served at the SAGE building during his Air Force days in the 70′s.

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