The ceremony was announced at the Oct. 10 Smyrna Town Council meeting, shortly after Mayor Mary Esther Reed and the council approved Romach Inc. of Franklin, Tenn. as the contractor. Three compliant bids had been received. Romach was the lowest.
“A lot of people have worked very, very diligently on this project, and it is really appreciated,” said Councilman H.G. Cole.
“It seems like it’s been forever, but since Capt. Kuss’ accident a year ago, the first week in June, we got the memorial committee together and raised more than a million dollars,” said Reed.
For a project of this nature, progress has been much quicker than normal. Acquiring the Blue Angels aircraft, centerpiece of the memorial, is a process that normally takes three to five years. Thanks to the efforts of retired Admiral Jimmie Taylor, the aircraft was acquired in well under a year. The project has raised $1,025,000 and counting, with additional significant in-kind donations.
“This is a special day, this is a sad day,” Reed said. “We could not have done this project without the memorial committee, and without the generosity of the community. When we look at the million dollars raised, it all came from Rutherford County. I think this is probably one of the most important things we’ve gotten together on as a community in a long time.”
“Everybody I’ve talked to, all have a connection to the Blue Angels — they don’t live here, they’re not stationed here, but they are a part of our community and have been for years. Everybody has a story about the day of the crash,” she said. “It’s etched in our memories. It has been an honor to be a part of a committee that will make this memorial possible, and to know it will still be here long after we leave this earth”
Taylor will also serve as the keynote speaker for the groundbreaking. A choir from Stewarts Creek High School will perform, and the Smyrna Fire Department Color Guard will present honors. The public is invited and encouraged to attend.
“This has been a very rewarding project to work on. The town has been very supportive. Everybody’s contributed throughout the design process,” said David Kline of Kline Swinney Associates, the architect for the project. “It’s always a team effort, and the client is a part of the team. The mayor, the town manager, everybody with the town, has been very supportive. This is one of those projects you look back on and go, ‘Yes, This is why I’m in this business.’”
Nathan Morgan, Romach’s project manager for the Kuss memorial, is eager to get to work.
“We had a crew working in Smyrna the day of Kuss’ crash,” said Morgan. “We feel close to it.”