Oak Harbor’s Windjammer Park may be getting a new monument after city park board members recommended a new location for a memorial that staff members have been working to install for years.
Phelps McIlvaine donated the monument to the city in honor of his nephew, Lt. j.g. William McIlvaine III, who died in a plane crash while he was stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in 2013.
All of the occupants of the EA-6B Prowler jet died along with 24-year-old William McIlvaine when it crashed in Eastern Washington.
The young service member was acting as the navigator during the flight, and the crash was attributed to pilot error. The Navy base changed its training procedures following the tragedy.
“It was a massive loss for everybody involved,” Phelps McIlvaine said. “I think the thing that impacted me the most was the impact the accident had throughout everyone at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.”
Phelps McIlvaine said he thought the new site was “spectacular” and supported its addition to Windjammer Park.
He described his nephew, a 2010 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, as a person who could do whatever he set his mind to — like learning to play the bagpipes and speak Arabic.
The 8-foot-tall granite obelisk has the artwork and insignia of each Prowler squadron surrounding its base. The names of late service members who had worked with Prowler squadrons at NAS Whidbey are engraved on its side in white against the bronze-hued stone.
The city has been working on the monument’s installation for years. The city first asked consultants in 2016 to analyze the structural integrity of a site at the Pasek Street overlook. Engineering issues over the years delayed installation, and staff recently began looking at other locations.
It was also decided the former spot was too loud and wouldn’t encourage thoughtful contemplation. The new site is next to the flagpole in Windjammer Park and is contingent on final engineering. City Archaeologist Gideon Cauffman said staff would likely begin working on it in the fall.
“This monument or sculpture is representative of the lives of those three pilots that we lost,” said Park Board Vice Chair Daisy Sapida during the meeting on Monday. “It’s a pretty, quiet place to do some reflection.”