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Sunday, March 5, 2017

The "The Framing Of A True Hero" Story

The framed piece I recently finished which features Lt. Calvin J. Spann.
I apologize for the quality of the photo, but took it with my phone
instead of my camera and the reflections show in the photograph.
It was an ordinary day.  Just finished putting the dust cover and wire on the back of a job I had matted and framed when Keith laid something on the counter that would lead to a few comments as well as this story.  I have been working for my former student for 17 years now and from time to time come across very interesting photos or artwork.  What Keith put in front of me was both interesting as well as an honor to mat and frame.  
The different pieces of the job.  Double mat, medals and cards.
The two medals, two laminated cards and small metal plaque told the story of Calvin J. Spann, American hero.  Calvin was an original Tuskegee Airman and fighter pilot with the 100th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group in the United States Army Air Corps.  He served in Europe during World War II where he flew 26 combat missions before the end of the war in the European Theatre.  The small cards that I framed told this story:  
Lt. Calvin J. Spann
Calvin left Rutherford, New Jersey High School in 1943 to go into the Army Air Corps to start aviation cadet training.  He was sent to Keesler Field, Mississippi where he found that they didn't train Black cadets.  So, he was sent to Tuskegee, Alabama where he received his wings, graduating in class 44G.  Lt. Spann was sent to Italy as a replacement pilot and assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group, 100th Fighter Squadron commanded by Col. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.  He flew 26 combat missions and was separated from active duty in 1946.  He tried to gain employment with commercial airlines but was denied because he was Black.  
The front side of the card that was issued.
He remained in the Air Force Reserves until 1961 when he was honorably discharged.  He then spoke to schools, churches and organizations about the Tuskegee Airman experience and how they succeeded with excellence.
  During his talks he tells how determined he was to succeed since he was told from the beginning that he couldn't learn.  He was fascinated by planes when seeing them flying at nearby Teterboro Airport and learned about the physics of flying while a student at Rutherford High School.  His Tuskegee Airmen were known as "Red Tails" for the distinctive markings on their planes.  In March of 1945 he flew a 1,600-mile round trip from Ramtelli, Italy to Berlin, Germany for what was considered the longest bomber escort mission of the 15th Air Force.  The heroic performance of the Tuskegee Airmen was a prime factor in President Harry Truman's decision in 1948 to abolish segregation in all branches of the U.S. military. He realized he was never going to get a commercial flying job so returned to school and landed a job in pharmaceutical sales in Englewood, N.J.  
Lt. Calvin J. Spann, war hero, as he appeared in later life.
I was honored to have the chance to mat and frame his work.
In 2006 he was inducted into the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame at Teterboro Airport.  In 2007 he and his fellow Tuskegee Airmen were collectively given the Congress- ional Gold Medal by President George W. Bush.  He would later publish his recollections in a graphic novel titled "Boundless Sky: The Story of Lt. Calvin Spann."  He died September 6, 2015.  What I have in front of me on the work bench were two limited edition special medals or coins.  They were #51 and #52 of 90.  They were cast to celebrate the 90th birthday of Lt. Calvin J. Spann, a real American Treasure.  One side of the coin features Lt. Spann's plane while the other side features a likeness of him. The small plaque that I placed in the center of the job states: 1st Lt. Calvin J. Spann.  The person who was having it matted and framed loved it so much that he was going to tell someone associated with the Bush Presidential Library about it and I may get a chance to do another one for the Library.  It would be a true honor to mat and frame one for the Library.  I told Keith that I would have to sign the rear of the job when it was finished!  He agreed with me.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

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