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Memorial nears completion for fallen Blue Angels pilot

A memorial for Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss, a Durango native and Blue Angels pilot, is nearing completion in Tennessee.

“It sounds like it’s going to be a beautiful tribute to his life and to the Blue Angels,” said Janet Kuss, his mom.

Kuss, 32, died in a plane crash June 2, 2016, as the Blue Angels prepared to perform in the Great Tennessee Air Show in Smyrna, Tennessee.

A Blue Angel jet, an F/A-18C Hornet, will be installed at the Kuss memorial in Lee Victory Recreation Park in Smyrna next week ahead of a dedication ceremony on June 9. The 21,600-pound jet is on permanent loan from the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.

The Kuss family selected the date of the dedication ceremony, which will take place a week after the two-year anniversary of the captain’s death, Janet Kuss said.

“It’s a beautiful time. I can’t wait to go,” she said.

An artist rendering of a memorial to Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss being built in Smyrna, Tenn. Kuss died in a crash in Smyrna while practicing with the Blue Angels for an air show.

Kuss plans to attend with her family, including her husband, Micheal; her son, Eric; and Jeff Kuss’ widow, Christina. She also expects Kuss’ Blue Angels team to be at the ceremony.

Kuss was born in Durango and graduated from Fort Lewis College. He was a decorated pilot who joined the Blue Angels in 2014.

Before the Blue Angels, Kuss served in Afghanistan and was awarded the Strike Flight Air Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

The Durango community supported the Kuss family in a variety of ways, including a motorcade to honor his life, and through cards and letters, Janet Kuss said.

“Everywhere you go, people have said nice things to us,” she said.

The town of Smyrna raised $1.27 million for the memorial. It is still working to reach its goal of $1.3 million, said Melissa Scott, a paralegal for the town government.