Thursday, June 4, 2015

Our Major Loss

Oshkosh is a little less great of a place to live today.  On Wednesday, officials confirmed what many of us knew Tuesday night--that Sonex CEO Jeremy Monnett and mechanic Mike Clark were the victims of the company's plane crash at Wittman Regional Airport.  Jeremy was one of the bright lights in our community--a man who cared as much about his neighbors as he did for his own tight-knit family.

Jeremy was a leader in aviation--showing an unwavering passion for flight.  Every year that we would talk at the EAA Airventure he would be this close to convincing me to get a pilot's license and to buy one of their kit planes.  He had moved the aviation company founded by his father, John, to the cutting edge of sport aviation--developing an electric aircraft (and putting up with our endless jokes about needing a really long extension cord) and a jet aircraft as well.  The EAA recognized that leadership as well--often featuring Sonex aircraft in their "Innovations Pavilion" and having Jeremy speak to members about the limitless possibilities for private flight.

Jeremy was also a leading in the greater Oshkosh business community.  He was a tireless champion for Wittman Airport, believing that the "Home of Sport Aviation" could also be the "Home of Sport Aviation Construction and Development".  I always enjoyed him chiding Winnebago County Board members from Neenah, Menasha and elsewhere on the "North End" who refused to put a single penny into improvements at Wittman because "that's the Oshkosh airport"--like nobody else outside the city limits would benefit from the facility.  Jeremy also pushed for the City-County partnership that brought about the development of the Oshkosh Aviation Business Park adjacent to the airport--where smaller companies like Sonex can locate to build and test their products.

And Jeremy was also leader in making Oshkosh a better place for ALL residents.  I would run into him at a number of charity fundraisers (even those involving golf, which I don't think was one of his strengths) benefitting low-income children, domestic violence victims, youth sports programs and the local arts.  That work will leave a lasting imprint on Oshkosh that goes far beyond what many others have accomplished in much longer lifetimes.

I would like to make a suggestion for our other civic and community leaders.  Please consider naming the new Aviation Business Park in honor of Jeremy Monnett.  It would be a fitting tribute to a man who led in so many ways. 

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