A World War II pilot and former Brookhaven resident has donated $250,000 to the city’s Police Foundation that was founded two years ago to assist officers with emergency needs and for scholarships. The money is expected to spark more donations to create a sustaining endowment for the foundation, according to board members.
Hess Bomberger, 97, who flew P-51 Mustang fighter planes during World War II and lived in Brookhaven for more than 30 years, made the donation out of respect for the police officers serving where he once lived, said Bruce Whitmer, a longtime friend of Bomberger and a board member of the Police Foundation.
“Being ex-military, he has an affection for police and law enforcement and other public servants,” Whitmer said. “When I told him about Police Foundation and what it was trying to accomplish, he jumped on it.”
Whitmer said Bomberger, who now lives in an assisted living facility in Gainesville, wants the city and its residents to match his $250,000 donation over the next two years. The goal is for enough money to be raised by 2020 to put into an endowment that ensures there is always enough money for officers who need it, he said.
The donation was a surprise announcement at last month’s inaugural Police Ball, said J.D. Clockadale, president of the foundation. He said he hugged Whitmer when the announcement was made. Chief Gary Yandura said the appreciation shown to the department by the Police Foundation and the community is inspiring to him and his officers.
Work is now underway to raise the next $250,000, Clockadale said, and an investment committee is being set up. Plans are to have the donation and the money raised over the next two years become significant enough to create an endowment.
The money used from interest and dividends from the endowment would be used to fund scholarships for officers and emergency financial assistance, he said, with the principal remaining intact to create a sustaining source of funding.
For the past two years, the Brookhaven Police Foundation has raised money from private donors. An annual golf tournament has also brought in about $80,000 a year for the foundation, Clockadale said.
The Police Foundation has donated nearly $30,000 in emergency funds to officers over the past two years. A recent donation was made to an officer recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and was forced to go on disability. The family needed help to pay their utility bills and mortgage, Clockadale said, and the Police Foundation was able to help.
Another approximate $50,000 has been donated to officers seeking higher education. The Police Foundation, for example, paid off one officer’s entire $9,000 student loan and has helped pay for schooling for officers seeking a master’s degree in business or criminology, Clockadale added.
“The key is they all have to meet is that there is a financial need,” he said. “
Clockadale and others did not know of Bomberger before the Oct. 13 Police Ball, where officers were recognized for their achievements.
Bomberger lived in Brookhaven for about 30 years before moving away some 15 years ago, Whitmer said. He flew P-51 Mustangs fighter planes during WWII in the 365th Fighter Group. He later made a career in the military designing predominately combat aircraft, according to Whitmer.
After he retired, Bomberger would fly a P-51 Mustang in local and national air shows, Whitmer said, and participated in the annual Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture Oshkosh in Oshkosh, Wisc., known as “The Greatest Aviation Celebration,”
Bomberger was also instrumental in creating manuals and teaching civilian pilots how to fly historical aircraft in formation at different air shows, Whitmer said.
“He’s a very interesting guy and wanted to challenge the other residents to match his donation,” Whitmer said. “He hopes [his donation] encourages other to make donations, and to understand and appreciate what the Foundation does for the police department.”
Among those honored at the Oct. 13 Police Ball:
Sgt. Matthew Murray, Sgt. Jacob Kissel, Sgt. Charles McCoy, Sgt. Celeste Rausch, Sgt. Delroy Stewart and Officers Sarah Miller and Brian Willis. These officers were honored for their work using AEDs, CPRs, Narcan, tourniquets and other first-aid to save lives.
Police Achievement Medal
Sgt. Matthew Murray for his work in securing $750,000 in grants for the police department through such grants as Project Safe Neighborhoods, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Pedestrian Safety Grant and the Firehouse Subs Foundation Public Safety Grant. He also secured military surplus equipment such as AEDs and tourniquets for the department.
Sgt. Jacob Kissel for his work in Support Services, including converting the annual Hot Pursuit 5K into a night-time glow run which raised more than $24,000 this year for the department’s Shop with a Badge program that matches officers with children in need for Christmas shopping. He helped transition the department to new Axon body and in-car cameras and brought to life “Brookhaven Barry,” the department’s life-sized bear mascot. The mascot is used in coloring books for children through the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety to teach pedestrian and vehicle safety.
Meritorious Service Medal
Sgt. David Snively for his work in creating the Brookhaven Police Explorer Program for teens that was launched in 2015 and to Det. Corey Van Alen for serving as associate advisor for the program.
Officer Carlos Nino for creating community outreach programs such as Coffee with a Cop, Shop with a Badge and others. He developed and implemented the first Hispanic Citizens Police Academy in 2016 for Spanish-speaking residents, including ensuring all materials were translated into Spanish.
Officer of the Year
Officer Maria Jones received this honor. She is assigned to the Traffic Safety Unit as the Pedestrian Safety Officer. This year she has conducted more than 1,100 pedestrian stops and nearly 700 motor vehicle stops. She has also conducted more than 25 school education events and 15 public education events. She’s also made nearly 60 arrests, mostly of wanted persons, and handed out 1,200 warnings and nearly 600 citations.