TUCKAHOE, N.Y. -- A sleepy summer village board meeting held in Tuckahoe last night became an unexpected historic event.
Capt. Edward W. Woodward, 89, journeyed back to Tuckahoe from his home in California to bring one of his most prized possessions to the village.
Woodward unexpectedly donated his sculpture of the Tuskegee Airman to the Village of Tuckahoe to a surprised Mayor Steven Ecklond, and Deputy Mayor Tom Giordano. The miniature statue donated by Woodward is an exact replica of the 8-foot statue that holds a place of honor at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado.
"I would hate to see something that was so special to my father wind up in a storage room, " said Edward Woodward, Jr. who brought the statue to the village hall with his father.
But Ecklond promised that that would not be the case.
"You can put that concern to rest," Ecklond said. "This is a very special gift to our town and we are honored you brought it here. It will stay right here where it belongs."
Woodward spent part of his childhood growing up in Tuckahoe, attending school in the building that now serves as town hall. He went on to marry Leona F. Hill, who was part of the Hill family that still lives on South High Street in the village. His nephew, Ernie Hill died in the Vietnam War. Hill's name is etched on the village veterans memorial.
Woodward became a Tuskegee Airman when he joined the United States Army Air Corp shortly after graduating high school in 1941.
He was one of 966 African Americans who were trained near the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, as pilots, navigators and bombardiers. The group went on to form the 332 Composite fighter group, dubbed the Red Tail Angels, because of the red paint on the tail assemblies of their planes.
Although he trained to be a bombardier and a navigator on the several planes including the B-25, the war ended before Woodward and his crew saw any action.
Woodward went on to spend the next 30 years in the United States Air Force, and traveled around the world, eventually settling in California.
Woodward said that one of the highlights of his life was receiving the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007 from President George W. Bush.
He wanted to bring it to Tuckahoe as a tribute to the village he calls home.
Ecklond said he will announce the gift at the next village board meeting scheduled for September. In the meantime, he plans on getting Woodward together with village historical society members Ernest Zocchi and Phil White.
"I think they will have a good time reminiscing," he said.
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