By TESA STRASSER
Kim Kovesci, a 1971 graduate of Canton South High School, spearheaded an event that touched and blessed many people, but especially four people from Boston.
At the annual Veterans Day breakfast at Faircrest Memorial Middle School a dedication ceremony was held for an A7 Corsair II plane from a Navy squadron in the Vietnam Conflict. This plane was dedicated to two pilots with whom Koveski served: Lt. John J. Cabral and Lt. Larry Kilpatrick. Both lost their lives in the Gulf of Tonkin defending freedom.
Four members of the Cabral family traveled to Canton from Boston for the ceremony. Both families were invited but only the Cabrals were able to take advantage of the opportunity.
It was an emotional event for all involved, as 38 years later, Kovesci shared the story that led to this point.
Growing up just 10 houses away from Faircrest School and having played baseball on a field where the school now stands, Kovesci claims to be a Wildcat through and through. He now lives and works in the Akron area. He is the director of technology at Archbishop Hoban High School in Akron and is a professor at Kent State University.
He joined the Navy shortly after high school and became an aviation fire control technician in the VA-105, otherwise know as the "Gun-Slingers."
The pilots of this squadron flew 708 missions mining the Ho-Chi-Minh Trail, protected B-52s and fought in Hanio during the most intense fighting of the war.
Kovesci returned to Ohio in 1974. He and his wife, Christine, raised three children, Benjamin, Brian and Becky, all of whom are Ohio State University Buckeyes.
Benjamin became a Naval flight officer. It was Ben who discovered the A7 at MAPS Military Museum near the Akron Canton Airport. He excitedly called his father to tell him about his discovery.
When the elder Kovesci saw the plane he was heartsick. "It was in really bad shape. It was in pieces on the floor and on skids outside," he shared. His first thought was, "This is disrespectful to our pilots and I have to do something about it."
He and other volunteers accumulated over 2,000 volunteer hours to bring the vessel back to respectability. Dave Bachman and John Disco were dedicated volunteers during this project. Ellen Wilson, a teacher at Faircrest, contributed her painting skills to put the all-important horse head on the tail of the plane.
The plane is now on display at MAPS, for all to appreciate. It is a memorial to the men who served in the VA-105 and all veterans who risked their lives for others.
Because of Kovesci's Canton Local roots, he approached Val Kinney, organizer of the annual breakfast, and requested the opportunity to hold the dedication ceremony at this year's Veteran's Day breakfast at Faircrest.
Cabral's widow, Maureen, his sisters Linda Cabral and Delores Nagle and his son John Cabral Jr. were touched to be a part of the ceremony. They were given a large framed photograph of the plane and Christmas ornaments commemorating the event.
Kay Lane, mother of fallen Army Nurses Corps soldier Sharon Lane, presented the members of the Cabral family with roses acknowledging her understanding of their loss. The Cabral family was blessed by the kindness of Kovesci and all involved in the festivities at Faircrest.