Wood-Ridge, NJ – On Wednesday, November 1, 2017, the Aviation Hall of Fame & Museum of New Jersey held its 44th Annual Hall of Fame Induction Dinner at the Fiesta Ballroom in Wood-Ridge, NJ. This tribute dinner honors local aviation pioneers and financially supports the hall of fame and museum, located on Fred Wehran Drive in Teterboro, NJ. It is one of the museum’s biggest fund raising events of the year.
Founded in 1972, the Aviation Hall of Fame & Museum of New Jersey is dedicated to the preservation of the Garden State’s distinguished, two-century aviation and space heritage. Men and women whose outstanding aeronautical achievements have brought worldwide recognition to the state are enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Meridian is a proud supporter of the museum, and representatives of the company enjoy attending the induction dinner every year. Ken Forester, Sr., who founded Meridian with Bob Hewitt back in 1946, was himself inducted into the hall of fame in 2008. His son and Meridian CEO, Ken Forester, Jr., was among those who attended the ceremony for the company.
This event recognized four individuals who are connected to New Jersey and who have each uniquely contributed to the advancement of human flight.
The 2017 NJ Hall of Fame Inductees were:
General Michael L. Cunniff (1957 – )
A longtime resident of Belle Mead, NJ, General Cunniff is the Adjutant General of New Jersey. Cunniff commands more than 9,000 Soldiers and Airmen of the New Jersey Army and Air National Guard. He directs controls and manages the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs in the execution of federal and state missions.
In addition, he manages all state veterans’ programs, commissions and facilities in New Jersey. His previous commands included the 108th Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey and the 150th Air Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, 405th Air Expeditionary Wing, Thumrait Air Base, Oman.
Cunniff entered the United States Air Force in July 1982, and was commissioned through the Academy of Military Science in October 1983. He received his pilot’s wings at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, in 1983. He has served in many operations including Operations Northern Watch, Joint Forge, Allied Force, Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
In the area of education, Cunniff graduated in 1981 from the New Jersey Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering. He also completed the 1996 Operational Risk Management Course at Andrews Air Force Base, MD. He is a graduate of the 2002 Air War College, by correspondence.
During his long career, he has earned an amazing 29 awards and decorations from both the United States military and the State of New Jersey. Cunniff is rated as a Command Pilot and has over 6,000 military flight hours, including 336 of them in combat situations. He is checked out on 9 aircraft types including the F-4D/E, C-17, and several models of the KC-135.
Thomas S. Marotta (1943 – )
A longtime resident of Bloomfield, in 1967 Marotta joined Marotta Controls Inc., the family business founded by his father and 1995 NJAHOF inductee, Patrick T. Marotta. As he took the helm, the younger Marotta continued the momentum begun by his father’s work on rocket engines for the U.S. Air Force and later NASA, which spanned the X-1 through the Apollo Programs.
Under his leadership the company gained recognition as a world class engineering and manufacturing center for precision control systems supporting the aerospace and defense industries. Marotta led the company’s involvement in many historic programs from the earliest days of human spaceflight to innovations in today’s “New Space” industry. He also guided the company’s growth and development of new weapons technologies and electronic controllers that improve the effectiveness of our warfighters and enhance the safety of our nation.
Active in community affairs, Marotta is a leader of many local organizations. Since 1985 he has served as a trustee for Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology. He has also been a member of the Executive Committee and Board of Governors for the Aerospace Industries Association.
Marotta served on active duty with the 108th TAC Fighter Group, NJ Air National Guard at McGuire Air Force Base, and has remained an active pilot with commercial, multi-engine and instrument ratings. In his near half century of flying he has logged over 3,600 hours as Pilot in Command.
Currently Tom Marotta is Chairman Emeritus and Advisor to the President and CEO of Marotta Controls, his son Patrick A. Marotta. His sons Tommy and Michael have also joined the company, and his daughter holds a directorial role.
David J. Morris (1930 – 2010)
Born in Weehawken, Dave Morris grew up in Union City, NJ. He began working for the then Port of New York Authority in 1948 at the age of 18 as a courier, retiring in 1996 as Chief of Aeronautical Operations at Newark International Airport for the Port Authority of NY & NJ – totaling 48 years of service. During his tenure he received numerous awards and commendations reflecting the many positions he held and the caliber of service he rendered in each.
His passion for aviation history in general, and the history of Newark Airport in particular, was well-known. His collection of historical documents and photos concerning the airport was unparalleled and now resides at the Aviation Hall of Fame and Museum of NJ.
Morris was also known for his love of both Newark International and its people. In his near half-century of service he became a beloved figure there, embodying the spirit of the largest and busiest airport in the Garden State. One example of his personal concern for all who worked at Newark International was his initiative to write and produce a safety film — 13,000 and You — which welcomed every new employee starting at any of the numerous companies there. In addition, Morris strove to extend his passion for aviation to friends and family and led the planning of the annual Newark Airport Family Day.
During his years in airport operations, he had the opportunity to greet several VIPs and celebrities passing through Newark. Of these, the two he was perhaps most proud of assisting were Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan.
Morris was a graduate of Saint Peters College and also a veteran of the U.S. Naval Reserves.
Captain Lynn O’Donnell (1947 – )
A New Jersey resident, Captain O’Donnell began in aviation learning to skydive and participating in formation jumps beginning in the early 1970’s.
While working as an analyst at Piper Aircraft Corporation, she began flight training. Within two years, she earned certificates including Commercial, Multi-engine, Instrument, and Flight Instructor. To build hours, she ferried light aircraft to new owners across the Atlantic. Eventually 52 of these solo Flights were completed (including 33 in single-engine equipment). Desiring to become an airline pilot during a time when this was a difficult endeavor for women, she began flying for charter and commuter carriers. Later she became jet-qualified and flew for two air-cargo companies. From there she attained to flying passengers for three major U.S. airlines: Eastern, Pan Am, and finally United. Upon retirement from United in 2008 she was type-rated on the Boeing 747-400, 757/767 and 777.
In retirement, Captain O’Donnell endeavored to be an aviation educator and continues to serve the aviation community. Her management of the scholarship program of the North Jersey 99’s, a women’s pilot organization, saw a 67% increase in awards. Involvement with the 99’s also led to a major role in redesigning the NJAHOF museum’s “Women in Aviation” exhibit. Today she instructs, is an officer in the International Stinson Club, and flies for the EAA’s Young Eagles initiative.
Throughout her career, Captain O’Donnell’s fascination with sky diving continued. In recent years she’s earned multiple world records in the sport. This included being part of a formation jump with 120 participants. In 2012, she participated in a record setting jump involving 60 participants, all over 60, who only joined together after a 90-second freefall!
Wood-Ridge, NJ – On Tuesday, October 7, 2014, the Aviation Hall of Fame & Museum of New Jersey held its 42nd Annual Hall of Fame Induction Dinner at the Fiesta Ballroom in Wood-Ridge, NJ. This tribute dinner honors local aviation pioneers and financially supports the hall of fame and museum, located on Fred Wehran Drive in Teterboro, NJ. It is one of the museum’s biggest fund raising events of the year.
Founded in 1972, the Aviation Hall of Fame & Museum of New Jersey is dedicated to the preservation of the Garden State’s distinguished, two-century aviation and space heritage. Men and women whose outstanding aeronautical achievements have brought worldwide recognition to the state are enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Meridian is a proud supporter of the museum, and representatives of the company enjoy attending the induction dinner every year. Ken Forester, Sr., who founded Meridian with Bob Hewitt back in 1946, was himself inducted into the hall of fame in 2008. He was also in attendance on Tuesday evening.
This event recognized three individuals who are connected to New Jersey and who have each uniquely contributed to the advancement of human flight.
The NJ Hall of Fame 2014 Inductees were:
Maj. Joseph Crecca (Born 1940)
Born and raised in New Jersey, Crecca graduated from Bloomfield High School and went on to earn a B.S. degree from Newark College of Engineering in 1962. He entered the USAF in 1964 and began flight training. He finished Officer’s Training School as a Distinguished Military Graduate. After being certified as an F-4C Phantom Weapons Systems Officer, Crecca shipped out to Vietnam in July of 1966. In November of that year, after flying 87 combat missions, his aircraft was shot down over enemy territory by a Surface to Air missile. He was captured and spent the next six years and three months incarcerated by the North Vietnamese; including time spent in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” P.O.W. camp. After release in 1973 Crecca went through jet requalification in the T-38 and then became an F-4E pilot. For the next four years he was stationed at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida where, in addition to flying, he held a number of leadership positions.
In 1978 Crecca left the Air Force to become a commercial pilot. He received a position at Flying Tigers and went on to fly the DC-8 and 747. In 1989 Flying Tigers was merged into Federal Express. At Federal Crecca flew MD-11’s as First Officer and Captain. After reaching the mandatory retirement age of 60 for pilots he continued as a Flight Engineer on DC-10’s before retiring in 2005.
Medals awarded to Crecca include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, eight Air Medals, two Purple Hearts, the Prisoner of War Medal and the Republic of Vietnam Cross of gallantry with Palm.
Cpt. Kenneth T. Ham (Born 1964)
Hailing from Plainfield, Ham graduated from the Naval Academy in 1987 with a degree in aerospace engineering. He later earned an M.S. in the same subject from the Naval Postgraduate program. After being commissioned an officer Ham was assigned to the NASA-JSC Zero-g flight research program at Ellington Field in Houston. In 1989 he became a Naval Aviator and reported to Florida’s NAS Cecil Field where he trained on F/A-18’s prior to joining the Privateers of VFA-132, and later the Gunslingers of VFA-105. He completed two carrier deployments involving combat missions over Northern Iraq and Bosnia. During this time Ham served as Air Wing Strike Leader. Following this posting he became a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and test flew the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet.
In 1998 he was selected to be a NASA astronaut. Ham’s first spaceflight was aboard Space Shuttle Discovery on the STS-124 mission in 2008. He served as pilot and spent nearly two weeks in orbit, including a docking with the International Space Station (ISS). In 2010 Ham was Mission Commander of Space Shuttle Atlantis on the STS-132 mission, also to the ISS. By the close of this mission Ham had logged a combined total of 24 days in space. After leaving NASA he became Chair of Aerospace Engineering at Annapolis, only recently departing to join a commercial spaceflight company.
Ham is a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, the U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association, and the Association of Space Explorers. He has logged over 6,000 hours piloting more than 40 aircraft types and has made more than 300 carrier landings.
Lt. Col. Jay Zeamer, Jr. (1918-2007)
A childhood resident of Orange, Zeamer was an Eagle Scout by age 13. In 1940 he graduated from M.I.T. with a degree in civil engineering. Already an Army reservist with an interest in aviation, Zeamer joined the active force in 1940 and graduated from flight school in 1941. Stationed in New Guinea at the time of Pearl Harbor Zeamer became a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot. By May 1943 he had already won two Silver Stars on combat flights.
On June 16th, 1943 Zeamer was in command of a B-17 photo-reconnaissance mission over Japanese-held Bougainville. On the return flight his aircraft was intercepted by an estimated 17 enemy fighters. In a 45-minute running battle he and his crew shot down at least five aircraft despite eight airmen, including Zeamer, being wounded. The B-17 was heavily damaged, losing both oxygen and hydraulic systems. Despite being severely injured, and drifting in and out of consciousness, he directed his crew to a safe landing at a base 580 miles away. For this action Zeamer was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor along with his bombardier, the one casualty of the mission.
After the war Zeamer earned a Masters degree in aeronautical engineering from M.I.T. and worked as an engineer for Pratt & Whitney, Hughes Aircraft, and Raytheon before retiring in 1968. When he passed away in 2007 he was the last living USAAF Medal of Honor recipient.
In addition to the Medal and the Silver Stars Zeamer was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses and two Air Medals.
On the evening of Tuesday, October 9, 2012, the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame held its annual inductee dinner at the Fiesta Ballroom in Wood-Ridge, NJ. Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the event was heavily attended by the Teterboro aviation community, as well as by members of the broader aviation community throughout the State of New Jersey. Ten Meridian colleagues were among dozens of other attendees who gathered in Wood-Ridge to support the honorees on this special occasion. In addition to the award presentations, the evening included a cocktail hour, a 3-course dinner, and a chance to catch-up with old friends and colleagues from the industry. Among the guests was Meridian founder, Ken Forester, Sr. In 2008, Mr. Forester was inducted into NJAHOF.
Meridian is proud to support this important organization and its mission, and congratulates the three newest inductees:
Susan M. Baer (1950 – )
Director of Aviation
The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey
Susan Baer of Montclair, NJ earned degrees at Barnard College and New York University and began her distinguished career with the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey in 1976 as an analyst. In the 1980s she became the first woman to manage the Lincoln Tunnel and, later, the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan. In 1988, Baer joined the Port’s Aviation Department becoming General Manager of Aviation Customer and Marketing Services. By 1994 she was General Manager of La Guardia Airport, and during the next 13 years became the only person in Port Authority history to manage all three major NY and NJ airports including Newark Liberty and Kennedy International. In 2009, Baer was made Director of Aviation, the first woman to hold that position. As Director she is responsible for the safe and efficient operation of all five of the agency’s airports: Kennedy, Newark, La Guardia, Teterboro and Stuart, which together make up the world’s busiest airport system. Baer is active in the communities surrounding the airports she oversees, serving on the boards of Vaughn College and the Newark Museum. She is also on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Future Aviation Advisory Committee and the FAA’s NextGen Advisory Committee. Baer has been honored by, among others, the NJ AFL-CIO; the Newark International Airport Airline Managers Association; the Newark Regional Business Partnership; Barnard College, The YWCA, and the Boy Scouts.
Henry M. Rowan (1923 – )
New Jersey Business Aviation Advocate
Hailing from Ridgewood, Henry “Hank” Rowan’s lifelong involvement with aviation began in 1943 when he enlisted as a U.S. Army Air Force Cadet with a desire to learn to fly as a U.S.A.A.F. pilot during World War II. While the war ended before he was able to fly combat missions, Rowan was checked out on six aircraft including both the B-17 Flying Fortress and the B-29 Superfortress. After the war, he earned a degree in electrical engineering from M.I.T. where he graduated with honors. In the early 1950s Rowan designed and built his first induction furnace in his NJ home’s garage. He soon created Inductotherm Industries Inc. Today more than half of all induction melting systems in the world are Inductotherm furnaces, some of which are used in aerospace applications. Rowan was one of the first chief executives of a NJ company who saw the potential for business aviation. He built Inductotherm’s airport at the firm’s Rancocas headquarters. Later, when local opposition to the airport mounted, Rowan was personally able to save the facility from the threat of closure. By 1990 he was a Learjet-qualified pilot, and just two years later the company fleet had reached 10 aircraft. Rowan is perhaps best known for his 100 million dollar donation to Glassboro State College in 1992, the largest gift to a public college up to that time. In gratitude the school was renamed “Rowan University.”
Robert H. Widmer (1916 – 2011)
Famed Military Aircraft Designer
Born in Hawthorne, Widmer received his training to become an aircraft designer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Caltech. At Rensselaer he was named the best aeronautical engineer in his class after designing and building his own bi-plane as a thesis project. Widmer worked for Consolidated-Vultee (later Convair) during World War II and helped refine the airfoil for the most produced military aircraft in U.S. history, the legendary B-24 Liberator. After the war he went on to play a pivotal role in the design of the largest American Bomber ever flown, the eight-engined B-36 Peacemaker. Perhaps his greatest creation was the Convair B-58 Hustler, our nation’s first supersonic bomber, an aircraft capable of reaching twice the speed of sound and an altitude of over 75,000 feet. As Widmer’s career progressed, he was responsible for the design of the General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark, F-16 Fighting Falcon and the Tomahawk cruise missile. Later, working for Lockheed and its corporate successor, Lockheed-Martin, he was instrumental in creating a number of still highly classified aircraft designs. During this period he was one of the few civilians working for national defense contractors who received federal protection for both he and his family. Among many honors Widmer earned during his over fifty year career were the Spirit of St. Louis Medal, the Reed Aeronautics Award, and induction into the Rensselaer Alumni Hall of Fame.