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After 10 years of restoring, rebuilding and collecting, a Slippery Rock University professor is finally ready to open the doors to his military museum in Mercer County.

You just need to make an appointment first to see it.

The Western Pennsylvania Warbird Military Museum, on Cribbs Road off Route 58, Findley Township, is now open to small groups, according to Walter Powell, who teaches at SRU.

“Right now, (admission) is only by appointment,” Powell said.

Powell said he made that decision since he is the only person who operates the museum and he does not have the time to open it full-time.

“I’m doing it all myself,” Powell chuckled. “Once in a while, a friend will give me a hand, but I don’t have any staff or anything like that.”

Even though he works alone, Powell has been able to gather many rare and interesting military artifacts over the past 10 years.

Some of the aircraft Powell has collected include: a C-45 aircraft used by all branches of the military during WWII; a F-86 Saber-Jet, a rare aircraft used in the Korean War; a F-4 Phantom used in the Vietnam War; a Nieuport 17, which is a French aircraft used in WWI; and a YO-55, a prototype aircraft used in WWII.

Powell said he collected the aircraft through several organizations, such as Warbirds of America, a club that focuses on military aircraft, and Experimental Aircraft Association, a national club for people interested in all types of airplanes.

“I bought (all the planes) and put them together myself over the years,” Powell said. “It wasn’t cheap.”

Aside from the airplanes, Powell also has displays of military uniforms from all branches of service, as well as other military artifacts from various eras in U.S. history.

“We’re welcome to donations,” Powell added. “We are honoring all services in the military, not just the air force. My idea was to have a museum in Mercer County to honor all people who served their country, past and present.”

Powell himself served in the U.S. Military for five years, first joining the Army infantry in 1945 before entering the Army Air Force shortly after that. He was also part of the service when the transition from the Army Air Force to the U.S. Air Force took place in 1947.

“During my time in the service, I did electronics and radar work,” Powell said. “I took up flying lessons during WWII and I did fly a military aircraft, but I worked mostly with radar.”



Powell said his interest in the military was a “historical hobby” and said he wanted to collect artifacts “before they were all destroyed” and forgotten.



“It’s a labor of love,” Powell said. “It’s not a money-making thing. It’s to honor the U.S. Military and all branches of service.”

Powell said he does not even charge admission to visitors of the museum, but instead asks for donations.

According to Powell, the first tour of his military museum was given on May 5 to a group of people from the Institute of Learning and Retirement at SRU.



“ILR offers courses for people interested in many different subjects,” Powell explained. “(The institute) asked me this year if I would be willing to have people from the ILR tour the museum.”



Powell said the group, made up of retirees of SRU as well as local community members, toured the museum and said he thought they had a great time.

“They seemed to enjoy it,” Powell said. “I went through my lecture and they took a lot of photos.”

Powell also said a special guest speaker, who was the widow of a World War II Air Force pilot, discussed her husband’s role in combat during the tour.



“She donated her husband’s uniforms to put on display,” Powell added.



While the ILR visit was the first official tour group to go through his museum, Powell said he has also given walk-throughs to friends and family.

To learn more about the Western Pennsylvania Warbird Military Museum or to schedule a visit, contact Powell at 724-794-6747 or e-mail at wvp29@aol.com.