Kelch Aviation Museum receives $100,000 posthumous donation from beloved community member Rudy Kopp

The Kelch Aviation Museum at Brodhead Airport has received a $100,000 gift from the late Rudy Kopp (1927-2019) of Orfordville. For those who knew him, it will be no surprise that neither Rudy’s enthusiasm for aviation nor his generosity have been dampened at all by his passing in July 2019.

“Rudy had far ranging interests, but aviation was at the top of his list,” said daughter Nancy Kopp. From his first glimpse of a plane in the early 1930s, flight fascinated Rudy, and he made up his mind that someday he would fly. He got his private pilot’s license when he was in his early 40s and his glider rating at age 50.

Rudy’s curiosity led him on adventures around the world, making friends wherever he went, and becoming a veritable encyclopedia of information of all kinds.

In his travels, aviation museums were always a required stop, and Rudy was a frequent visitor to the Brodhead Airport, sometimes bringing his 1928 Packard Sedan. Naturally Rudy followed Kelch Aviation Museum’s progress from the beginning, delighted that Brodhead would soon have such a fine facility.

The new museum building began construction in July, with Phase 1 to be completed this November and Phase 2 in 2020. The new facility will feature 19 restored vintage aircraft from the “Golden Age of Aviation” (1920-1940) and a large rentable banquet space, in addition to an aviation art gallery, a collection of vintage automobiles, and an archive & library space. The facility will be open to the public year round, and will be a community resource for Brodhead and the surrounding area. A capital campaign launched in 2016 has raised nearly $850,000 to date.

Thanks to a $370,000 challenge grant awarded by the William S. Knight foundation, Rudy Kopp’s gift will effectively double. Rudy counted Bill and Stan Knight among his many friends, and was pleased to join with the Knight Foundation in contributing to this outstanding local project.

In the span of Rudy’s long and illustrious life, Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic, man set foot on the moon, and jet technology literally took off. Rudy never lost his sense of wonder (nor his sense of humor) about the accomplishments of humankind and the beauty of the natural world. Throughout his life he delighted in learning and discovering, and so The Kelch Aviation Museum will name their library & archive in his honor. A display about his life and passion for aviation and exploration will also be presented within the museum.

“Whenever Rudy stopped to visit, he would ask detailed questions about our operation and mission, so it’s humbling to know that we passed muster,” said Patrick Weeden, Executive Director of the Kelch Aviation Museum. “We are proud to carry on his memory and never-ending quest for knowledge and learning.”