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Mural only monument to Gimli Glider landing

Marc Zienkiewicz

News of the Gimli Glider going up for auction has the Gimli Art Club’s president abuzz thinking about what can be done to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the plane’s landing.


Barb Gluck spearheaded the painting of the Gimli Glider that can be found on the harbour sea wall, painted back in 2008 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Glider’s landing.

It remains the only monument in the community to the extraordinary event, but Gluck is hoping that the plane going up for sale might lead to some opportunities for Gimli to do a better job of remembering the most famous event to occur there in the past three decades.

“I wish somehow we could start a (funding) drive at the Gimli Credit Union to bring one of the most well-known planes in air history back where she belongs,” she says. “But it goes beyond just purchasing the plane. Money is required to transport, display and maintain her. I was told that the people at the museum in Winnipeg would also jump at the chance to have the plane, but again space and cost to provide the space comes into play. Just maybe – what a dream.”

The mural was painted by local artist Dave McNabb.

“When the Glider was being retired in January 2008, there were many who felt it should have been brought back to Gimli,” he says.

“One suggestion was to convert it into a museum. The argument against this decision was similar to most projects of this type – who is going to pay for the maintenance?”

Gluck has many fond memories of creating the seawall mural.

“Dave and I were down on the dock at midnight starting to get his mural on the wall in the dark. My husband built a shelter around him quickly one stormy day, trying to give him all the protection we could to get that mural done in such a short time,” she adds.

“Such memories of a wonderful six weeks preparing for the big day.”

The big day did indeed take place in July of 2008, when members of the original Gimli Glider crew, including pilot Bob Pearson, returned to Gimli to take part.

Pearson, now 77 and living on a farm halfway between Montreal and Ottawa, has a special place in his heart for the Gimli community.

He still keeps in touch with members of the Gimli Art Club, and plans to make another pilgrimage to Gimli this coming July to mark the 30th anniversary. He’ll do a little golfing, he says, and plans to visit with old friends.

He says it would be “quite something” to see an actual piece of the plane on display in Gimli or Winnipeg.

Right now it is sitting at California’s Mojave Airport, where it was flown by Pearson and crew in 2008 and subsequently used for parts.

“It’s a big airplane, and if it’s just left sitting there it will deteroriate,” he says. “It would be a nice souvenir for the town.”

Gluck isn’t giving up hope that a piece of the plane could somehow be returned to Gimli.

“Bob (Pearson) had told he a few years back that perhaps all that would be realistic now would be the retrieval of the cockpit,” she says. “He said five years ago he was saving his uniform for a display if it ever came to be. Would that not be amazing.”

She wonders if it’s not too late to throw a 30th anniversary gala to give the Gimli Glider and its crew the honour they deserve, although she admits it’s an uphill battle. Right now, no plans are in the works to mark the anniversary.

“One of the stews told me it is such a shame that Bob and Maurice have still not been recognized for their skills 30 years later with a Canadian medal of some sort,” she says.

“It is hard to think that Gimli will never be able to financially avail themselves of such a wonderful opportunity to commemorate such an amazing true story. How about a petition to get this all started?”

But even if the 30th anniversary goes by without any special fanfare, Gluck says the memories of the 25th will live on.

“It was a huge success because of the town and residents volunteering to make it all happen. One only accomplishes these things with the support of many. I always want the townspeople to know how instrumental they were in the big day.”



Should a piece of the Gimli Glider be brought back to Manitoba?

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