WALLINGFORD — The town will host a ceremony next month to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of former town resident Maj. Raoul Lufbery, World War I flying ace.
A special military parade and plaque dedication ceremony will be held May 5 to honor Lufbery.
“He was a legend, he was a hero,” said Bob Stickle, whose late wife was Lufbery’s great niece.
In 1916, Lufbery joined a group of American volunteers – the Lafayette Escadrille – that fought with French forces for nearly two years before America entered the war. Within three months, Lufbery recorded five official kills and went onto to record 17, becoming America’s first ace pilot in the war, according to the National Aviation Hall of Fame. He is the namesake of Lufbery Park and Lufbery Avenue.
Lufbery was killed on May 19, 1918 while attacking a heavily armed Albatross bomber, according to the aviation hall of fame.
The event honoring the anniversary of Lufbery’s passing will start at 11 a.m. with a short military procession starting at Town Hall, 45 S. Main St., and ending at the Wallingford Historical Society building, 180 S. Main St. The Governor's First Company and the Second Company of the Connecticut National Guard will the lead the procession.
The procession will be followed by ceremony to dedicate a 2x3 foot bronze plaque.
Several officials are expected to speak, including Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr., local legislators and a Lufbery family descendant, according to a press release.
Dickinson called Lufbury a “trailblazer.”
“You can look at him as one of the forerunners of the U.S. Air Force,” Dickinson said Wednesday. “He was one of the first to show the promise and effectiveness and the need for really having a readiness for air combat...His legacy lives on...”
The event was organized by the Wallingford 350th Jubilee Committee, a group organizing events to celebrate the town’s 350th anniversary in 2020.
Committee co-chair Bob Devaney said Lufbery’s family members approached him and co-chair Christine Mansfield a couple years ago about holding an event to commemorate the 100th anniversary.
Several family members of the family will travel to Wallingford next month from across the country and France, Lufbury’s native country, to attend the ceremony.
“We’re really excited about coming over there on May 5 and see this thing unveiled,” said Stickle, who lives in Brewster, Massachusetts, and contacted Devaney about organizing the event a couple years back.
Devaney called Lufbury a significant piece of Wallingford’s history.
“This is a very incredible piece of Wallingford history and people should see this,” Devaney said.
The plaque was paid for by family members and will be permanently displayed at the Wallingford Historical Society.
Police this week announced road closures for the ceremony. South Main Street will be closed from the intersection of Prince Street to the intersection of Ward Street from approximately 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. A section of South Main Street from Center Street to the intersection of Prince will also be closed off for about 10 minutes for the procession.