Flying high: Cancer survivor organizes event to honor veterans

Photo courtesy Betsy Murphy
Shannon Armistead, girlfriend of pilot Scott Yoak, strikes a classic pinup pose on the wing of the Lewisburg-based P-51 fighter plane Quick Silver. The aircraft will be one of nine classic warbirds participating in A Hero’s Salute on Oct. 25 in Charleston.
Photo courtesy Betsy Murphy
Brooke Cline, of Fayetteville, models 1940s-vintage attire, hair and makeup as she poses in front of an original 48-star United States flag. Betsy Murphy, who is organizing A Hero’s Salute, specializes in taking pinup-style photographs.
Betsy Murphy loves airplanes, history and dressing up. She’s combining all three for A Hero’s Salute on Oct. 25. The event features classic airplanes, military vehicles, living history and a dinner and dance.

Betsy Murphy loves history, loves airplanes and loves dressing up.

So the two-time cancer survivor decided to organize a living history event to combine all three.

On Oct. 25, Murphy and her charitable organization, Classic Beauties, are hosting A Hero’s Salute, a day-long event featuring World War II vintage aircraft, living history displays and a dinner and dance at Charleston’s Executive Air terminal near Yeager Airport.

“Nobody else was doing it,” explained Murphy. “I have the connections, so I’ll do it.”

Born in Milton, Murphy spent 26 years as a nurse before two bouts of breast cancer put her temporarily out of circulation. In April, she opened Bosom Buddies in Kanawha City, a boutique and home health provider that caters to the needs of fellow cancer survivors.

But the shop also serves as at least a temporary staging area for Murphy’s passions for photography and history.

In the back, racks of vintage clothing share space with a makeshift studio with an original 48-star American flag that serves as a backdrop for some of Murphy’s classic pinup style photographs. Photographs of young women posing with classic cars are arranged tastefully on a black shelving unit, showcasing some of her work.

“I’ve always liked pinup stuff,” Murphy said. “I’ve always liked history. The whole idea of [A Hero’s Salute] was to have a living history thing.”

The Oct. 25 event will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Executive Air. Murphy said the event will feature nine classic World War II-era warbirds, nearly two dozen military vehicles, historic re-enactors, living history displays, performances of 1940s era music, children’s activities, vendors, silent auctions and other fundraising events.

“There will be something for everyone,” Murphy said.

Murphy said the hangar will be made up like a World War II officers club. At 5 p.m., there will be a dinner, followed by a dance at 6 p.m. Period attire is encouraged, but not required, she said. Prior to the event, Murphy said she will host workshops on vintage makeup and hairstyles at Bosom Buddies, 3716 MacCorkle Ave. in Kanawha City.

Admission to the main event is $15 for adults and $10 for children between the ages of 6 and 16. Children under 6 and veterans will be admitted free.

Tickets for the dinner and dance are $50 per person. Murphy said some tickets will be available the day of the event, but participants are encouraged to get tickets in advance at Bosom Buddies or online at the event website, www.aherossalute.com.

Murphy said she began taking photographs in 2008, and quickly developed a knack for pinup style photographs. An avid air show fan, she started taking pictures at air shows, which put her in touch with pilots and allowed her to make the connections to get the classic warbirds to Charleston.

Aircraft taking part in the event include B-25 and A-26 twin-engined bombers, a 1943 Stearman training aircraft, a C-46 cargo plane, P-40 fighter plane, an F4U Corsair, Britain’s classic Spitfire fighter plane, a German Focke-Wulfe 190 fighter and the famous P-51 Mustang, which is still considered the best piston-engined fighter aircraft ever built.

Murphy said safety regulations won’t permit an all-out air show at Executive air, but all the aircraft will make fly-bys during the day.

“I think what Betsy’s doing is a great cause,” said Scott Yoak, owner and pilot of the Quick Silver P-51, based in Lewisburg.

Scott, 30, and his father, Billy, spent 15 years painstakingly restoring Quick Silver. Billy Yoak died last year of cancer, but Scott Yoak still flies the aircraft at exhibitions and air shows around the country. He said he usually flies in about 15 events a year, but this year is flying 22.

Yoak said Quick Silver was restored using parts from more than 200 original Mustangs, and now serves as a flying memorial to all branches of the United States military. “Our aircraft is a celebration of our nation’s military service,” he said.

“This airplane is literally a national monument,” Yoak said, adding the P-51 Mustang helped turn the tide of the war in Europe. He said there was a special significance in seeing the airplanes fly.

“You can see these airplanes in a museum all you want,” Yoak said. But he said being able to smell the oil and exhaust, hear the rumble of the P-51’s 12-cylinder Merlin engine and watch the Mustang flash by at 300 mph brings the history of the aircraft alive.

Yoak said Charleston has not had an air show in years, and the Oct. 25 event will give local residents a chance to see the P-51 in the air.

“I never get to display the aircraft that put West Virginia on the aviation map,” Yoak said. A Hero’s Salute will give him that opportunity.

Murphy said part of the proceeds of the event will go to her charitable organization. She said the group wants to give money to organizations that directly serve veterans, like the state veterans’ home in Barboursville.

She hopes A Hero’s Salute becomes an annual event to recognize the state’s veterans.

“There’s nothing here to honor them,” she said.

For more information, visit www.aherossalute.com.

Reach Rusty Marks

at rustymarks@wvgazette.com, call 304-348-1215

or follow @rusty_marks on Twitter.

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