Memorial mural unveiled at the Hangar Flight Museum
A mural paying tribute to one of the founding fathers of Calgary aviation was unveiled Monday.
The colourful painting measures 4.5 by 2.1 metres and features an image of Jack Hilton wearing his flight suit and goggles.
"We have many paintings actually in the Hangar Flight Museum," said Brian Desjardins, the Hangar Flight Museum's executive director. "This will be our centrepiece. It's so vibrant, it's so colorful, it's massive, you can't miss it when you come into the museum and we hope that people will come see this."
Desjardins invited members of Hilton's family to see it first before the public. Sandra Kratz, Jack's daughter, said she was impressed seeing the mural in person.
"Fabulous, (it's) so different from what I saw in the newspaper and on television (when it was just finished in June)," said Kratz. "Yeah, I think it's great."
The painting is by artist Bany Declair who worked on the piece in her Eau Claire studio. She finished in just under two weeks.
"Once the paint is mixed you have to be fast," said Declair. "You have some colours there, you have to go down the scaffold and so there's no time. For me it was like a mission that the soldiers did, you go on a mission, you do it and you go back home.
"That (mural) was my mission," she said. "13 days and nights and after that, to be honest, I was so sore, I had to go rest for one full month at home."
Declair said its the biggest and hardest project she's ever worked on. In early 2021, she connected with Desjardins through social media saying she wanted to donate a painting to the museum and she worked with him on subject material. She was drawn to Jack Hilton and spoke to his family about the project.
"The face is actually based on the conversation with his children because the children said hey dad you're the hero and Jack answers no I'm not the hero, heroes are buried in France," said Declair.
"So in the first four days the face in the painting was done," she said, continuing. "But because of what he said to his children, I covered the face with 28 real gold leaves, 24 carats and symbolically I covered the gold leaves with paint to show that these soldiers were buried in France."
Kratz said her dad never talked about his role in the war because her mom said it would stir up nightmares. But she thinks it's important to share her dad's story.
"I just think of how much fun my dad had flying, not the war part but the flying part," said Kratz. "He really liked that particularly when he was out training people here and he flew reconnaissance along the west coast. Apparently when I was born it was announced over all the airplanes that I had arrived."
FLEW OVER 100 MISSIONS
Jack Hilton flew over 100 missions in the Second World War in a Typhoon fighter. He then trained young men to become pilots. Hilton was also a member and volunteer at the Hangar Flight Museum for years and staff thought he was under-represented in Calgary's aviation history, until now.
"We do have other displays that celebrate these flying aces like William McKnight and Freddy McCall so it's wonderful to have a new addition to the Hangar Flight Museum that speaks and talks about Jack Hilton and his experiences serving in the Air Force in the Second World War," said Desjardins.
The painting is called 'Coming Home' and valued at upwards of $20,000. Learn more about the museum here: www.thehangarmuseum.ca