Major Grant from Wagner Foundation Enables Phase III Construction

The Kelch Aviation Museum at Brodhead Airport is proud to announce the start of construction on its Phase III museum building project. Construction of “The Dick and Bobbie Wagner Atrium” is only possible due to a very generous financial commitment by The Wagner Foundation of Lyons, Wisconsin.

The Wagner’s connection to the Brodhead Airport runs deep, as does their connection to Al and Lois Kelch, the original founders of the museum. Richard “Dick” and Bobbie Wagner were deeply involved in aviation, both in Wisconsin and internationally. Al and Lois Kelch were members of the Wisconsin vintage aviation scene from the very beginning, and the two couples formed a close friendship. Dick and Al worked on several airplane construction projects together, and the two couples spent many vintage fly-ins together at the historic Brodhead Airport.

“The Kelch Aviation Museum epitomizes the era of light aircraft aviation in which Dick and I were involved during his lifetime,” said Bobbie Wagner. “Located at Brodhead Airport, it provides an ambiance that is unavailable to other air museums. It brings back many wonderful memories to me, and I am so grateful to see the history of those special days being preserved for our upcoming generations.”

Aviation was always a part of Dick Wagner’s life; he got his pilot’s license at age 16 and went on to a 24-year career as an airline pilot. Together Dick and Bobbie Wagner raised two daughters, Marcy and Julie, while running a successful family-owned aviation business at the same time. In 1995, the couple sold Wag-Aero and retired to form the Wagner Foundation. The charitable efforts of the Foundation include supporting numerous international humanitarian projects, as well as many aviation, education, community, and historical projects in Wisconsin.

Upon Al’s death in 2004, a trust was set up to fulfill Al’s dream of creating a vintage aviation museum. Dick Wagner served as a trustee for the Kelch Charitable Trust, until he passed away in 2012. 

The Kelch Aviation Museum has grown into a world-class facility; after years of fundraising, construction for an initial building was begun in summer 2019 and the museum held its grand opening in July of 2021. Consisting of the 12,000 sq.ft. main hangar showroom and a smaller gathering hall with a library and amenities, the museum campus is not yet complete. A welcoming center and gallery in the style of a 1930s aviation hangar has been designed to connect the two existing buildings and provide space for offices, smaller exhibits and galleries, and a gift shop. The Wagner Foundation’s generous support will now bring the museum to its next stage.

“This project seemed like the perfect way to honor our Dad, as well as commemorate his friendship and shared love of historic aviation with Al Kelch,” said Marcy Essman, Dick and Bobbie’s daughter and board member on the Wagner Foundation.

The Dick and Bobbie Wagner Atrium will begin construction this spring, aiming to open in autumn 2022. 
“I am confident that current management will make this happen, and in a judicious manner” stated Bobbie Wagner. 

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