So: yours truly decided last week that the best way to figure out exactly what Joliet city manager Tom Thanas meant by that $30K figure for redoing the Rich & Creamy ice cream stand’s roof was to write to Thanas and ask. What a novel idea, you say (no, not really; just comes from me being a journalist for lo, these many years). I also mentioned to him that the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway Authority had a grant program, as does the National Park Service, for rehabbing historic sites and official roadside attractions along Route 66 (which information I received from Stacy Conn over at the byway; thank you, Stacy!). And Mr. Thanas deigned to reply!! Imagine that.
Greetings, fellow route-roadies! You’ll be glad to hear that the Bruno Schustek Memorial Fund is up and running. The forgotten hero of the Stinson Airport tragedy of July 6, 1930 is buried in an unmarked grave, and we’d like to change that. Kudos to my colleague Joe Kubal for getting the deed done and to Keith Yearman for nagging us until Joe got going at Chase Bank. With any luck, perhaps we can get a headstone ready in time for next year’s anniversary.
Today, July 6th, is the 83rd anniversary of the Stinson Airport tragedy, in which two pilots went up into the air above Route 66 to rescue an amateur parachutist whose chute had caught on the wing of her own plane above the airport. Four people went into the air that day, if you count the parachutist’s pilot, but only three came down safely: the would-be rescuer himself died while the parachutist landed safely and lived.
The dead hero’s name was Bruno Schustek. A German-American, he had flown for the German military and was by then a member of the Illinois Glider Association. He’s forgotten today, with not even a lowly grave marker to pinpoint his grave at Elmlawn Cemetery in suburban Elmhurst. Led by Keith Yearman, my colleagues and I have begun a campaign to collect funds for a proper gravestone for Schustek (more on that below), because what he did was extraordinary even for his times.
We’ve just had another piece of U.S. Route 66 history that we’ve researched hit print. Well, so to speak: our co-author Keith Yearman just got a story about the Stinson Airport tragedy of July 1930 published on the website of The 66 News and its sponsor, the Route 66 Association of Illinois. It was posted by 66 News editor Gina Blitstein (thank you, Gina!).
We also have a podcast about the Stinson Airport tragedy on Podbean, courtesy of the Illinois Geographical Society. Thanks, guys!