Prowler aircraft monument still in works years later

The Oak Harbor Park Board learned the donated monument will probably be installed this year.

Lt. j.g. William McIlvaine, left, celebrates after graduating from flight school. He was killed in a training accident in March 2013. His uncle, Phelps McIlvaine, donated a monument to Oak Harbor in honor of all service members who died while serving in Prowler squadrons. Photo courtesy Phelps McIlvaine

Lt. j.g. William McIlvaine, left, celebrates after graduating from flight school. He was killed in a training accident in March 2013. His uncle, Phelps McIlvaine, donated a monument to Oak Harbor in honor of all service members who died while serving in Prowler squadrons. Photo courtesy Phelps McIlvaine

A project to install a donated EA-6B Prowler monument at a lookout on Pasek Street in Oak Harbor is still in development years after it began.

The Oak Harbor Park Board received an update about the project at a meeting Tuesday. The project had originally been held back by some engineering issues, but those issues have been addressed, according to public information officer Sabrina Combs.

“Now that that’s been identified and worked out, they should be good to move forward. I believe it’s this year they’re planning on having that and finishing it.” Combs said.

The proposed site is on top of sewer vaults on Pasek Street overlooking the waterfront. There is a “bump” out of the sidewalk where a resevoir tank sits below where the monument would be located, according to the donor, Phelps McIlvaine.

The project began in 2016 with a $17,000 contract for consultants to look at the structural integrity of the location to see if it was sound for the monument and pedestrians to stand on it.

Contract amendments increased it to $78,000 in 2018, but it was lowered to $73,000 in 2019. The work includes retrofitting the vaults and updates to the sidewalk and handrails. The project received no bids the first time it was released to the public in 2018. No other location was being considered, Combs said.

Park Manager Jesse Otts said the sculpture is in the city’s Public Works yard.

The monument’s donor said he would reconsider the donation if the project takes too much longer, Combs explained.

Combs said the the city will try to do a better job of communicating with him on the project’s progress and create a web page.

Phelps McIlvaine of Bellingham commissioned the monument to honor his nephew, Lt. j.g. William McIlvaine III, who died in 2013.

An EA-6B Prowler jet from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island crashed in Eastern Washington near the towns of Odessa and Harrington. All of the crew died, including the 24-year-old McIlvaine who was acting as the navigator. The Navy attributed the cause of the crash to pilot error. The base made changes to its training program after the crash.

Phelps McIlvaine said his nephew was “extraordinary.”

“He was a kind of beautiful mind that could just do whatever he decided he wanted to do,” he said in a phone interview.

William McIlvaine learned to play the bagpipes and speak Arabic in high school before being accept to the U.S. Naval Academy. He graduated from the academy in 2010. Phelps McIlvaine said he was excited when he learned his nephew would be stationed at NAS Whidbey.

Phelps McIlvaine knew of a Prowler monument on the base but thought most of the public likely would not be able to see it.

He designed and commissioned the monument — a tall, granite obelisk with all of the names of service members who died and had worked with the Prowler squadrons at the base. It also has artwork of the insignia of each Prowler squadron around its base.

McIlvaine said he was told the project would go out to bid this spring.

Phelps McIlvaine donated a monument to Oak Harbor in honor of all service members who died and had worked in Prowler squadrons. He made the donation after his nephew died during training. Pictured is the obelisk portion. Photo courtesy Phelps McIlvaine

Phelps McIlvaine donated a monument to Oak Harbor in honor of all service members who died and had worked in Prowler squadrons. He made the donation after his nephew died during training. Pictured is the obelisk portion. Photo courtesy Phelps McIlvaine

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