Donations sought for Calverton memorial to honor former Grumman pilots

An effort more than three years in the making to bring a memorial to Calverton in honor of Grumman test pilots Ralph “Dixie” Donnell and Charles “Buck” Wangeman is still underway and donations are being sought to help complete the process.

Aldo Catsaros, a local aeronautics history buff who has spearheaded the effort, launched a GoFundMe page and Facebook page dedicated to spreading the message and raising more funds.

“Now it’s time to honor and celebrate their lives,” the GoFundMe page reads.

In July, the Riverhead Town Board gave an informal OK to bring in a three-ton boulder to the Calverton facility where the F-14 Tomcat display is. The pilots were killed in 1967 while testing a General Dynamics/Grumman F-111B fighter jet. A mislabeled switch led to the engine being choked off and when the pilots pulled the ejection handle, it broke off, according to the Naval Aviation Safety Center’s investigation of the crash.

The GoFundMe page has a goal of $5,500.

Photo caption: (From left) Riverhead Town engineer Guy Cawly, Eddie Partridge, the owner of TS Haulers, which donated the boulder, Riverhead Town engineer Paul Birmingham and Aldo Catsaros. (Courtesy photo)

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