Ground Broken For New Naval Air Museum

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Ground Broken For New Naval Air Museum

Lexington Park, MD - 10/17/2012

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By Dick Myers

(r to l) Chaplain Lt. Ken Amador, Del. John Bohanan, Commissioner President Francis
(r to l) Chaplain Lt. Ken Amador, Del. John Bohanan, Commissioner President Francis "Jack" Russell and NAVAIR Commander VADM David Dunaway

It took a long time. Ground was finally broken Tuesday afternoon for the new Patuxent River Naval Air Museum on Route 235 just outside Gate 1. According to several speakers at the occasion, it has taken at least 15 years of hard work and dedication on the part of a cross section of the community as well as funding from the federal, state and county governments and private and corporate donors.

Del. John Bohanan (D: 29B), who was also representing Rep. Steny Hoyer, remembered that the widening of Route 235 was taking the original Navy museum at Gate 2. He said there were no plans to replace it. At a meeting at the IHOP restaurant in Lexington Park he said he and the late J. Frank Raley enlisted the help of Keith Fairfax, who had just retired. Fairfax, who is affectionately known as the mayor of Lexington Park, took up the challenge.

Fairfax was master of ceremonies at the groundbreaking ceremony. He noted the project was made possible with a $3.4 million federal grant, $1.2 million state grant and $1.5 million is local fundraising. Fairfax also praised the county’s employees who have coordinated the effort. And he of course highlighted the effort of the Navy and Naval Aviation.

County Commission President Francis “Jack” Russell said, “We are at the right place at the right time. It transcends all of us.” He added, “This is a culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of people.”

Bohanan also pointed out the inspiration of three Lexington Park pioneers who have since passed away: Raley, Jack Daugherty and Robert “Gabe: Gabrelcik. The museum now sits on property that was the location of Gabrelcik’s original business, a gas station and then a car dealership. Mrs. Gabrelcik was on hand for the ceremony.

State Senator Roy Dyson (D: 29th) said two things, shopping and museums, draw people to visit communities. “People will come to America to buy their shoes and visit this museum,” he said.

Patuxent River Naval Air Station Commanding Officer Capt. Ted Mills praised the members of the museum association for their tireless effort. He said he worked with them after his arrival at Pax as executive officer. “You have done an outstanding job,” he told them, adding, “It was out of determination and unrelenting forward action that they made this happen.” Museum Association President Ed Forsman gave opening introductions at the ceremony.

NBAVAIR Commander VADM David Dunaway said, “There really is a history here in the RDT&E community. It has made a difference in how we lead our lives.” He called the community a “triad of power” and said the museum will be a key in educating local students, particularly those in the STEM curriculum, who will visit it. “They can get a feel for the history,” he noted.

After the NAVAIR commander’s remarks, ground was officially broken. Casey Stinger, president of the company building the museum, Broughton Construction, promised to bring it in “on time and on budget.”

After the ceremony a reception was held in the existing museum, which remains open during construction.

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