Richland’s Konley Kelley Shares Passion for Flight and World War II History With Emeritus Students
By day, Konley Kelley is the director of corporate and community relations at Richland College Garland Campus, overseeing contract training in the north Dallas area and assisting with the development of grant projects for the local business community. But when it’s time for the suit and tie to come off, Kelley hits the skies. A long-time volunteer with the Commemorative Air Force B-29/B-24 Squadron, Kelley has served as the editor of “The Flyer” newsletter since 2012 and has been the squadron’s education officer since the title’s creation in late 2017.
Recently, work and play collided when Konley gave a presentation on the CAF as part of the Emeritus program’s Enrichment lecture series. Richland College’s Emeritus program offers a variety of affordable classes and programs to individuals over 50 who enjoy continued learning.
“Many of the Emeritus program members lived through World War II or have clear memories of their parents in the 1940s and ‘50s, who grew up as part of the Greatest Generation,” explained Kelley. “Many Emeritus participants are veterans and history buffs. I think my presentation helps them remember a time that seems distant for people my age—52—and younger, and it encompasses many of their cherished memories. With 18,000 B-24 Liberators built during World War II, some attendees had relatives who flew aboard these aircraft, while many others have fond memories of seeing the aircraft at airshows throughout the years.”
The CAF B-29/B-24 squadron is under the charter of the Commemorative Air Force, an organization dedicated to acquiring, restoring and preserving a complete collection of combat aircraft flown by all military services of the U.S., along with selected aircraft of other nations, for the education and enjoyment of present and future American generations, while also paying tribute to the thousands of men and women who built, serviced and flew them in defense of the U.S.
Kelley’s Emeritus presentation on Sept. 24 included an explanation of the CAF and upcoming plans for a CAF national airbase in Dallas, which will include an aviation museum and regularly hosted air shows. He also described his personal experiences with the organization, shared videos and told stories about veterans who have been able to ride in the B-29/B-24 squadron’s legendary planes for the first time since serving in World War II.
“I personally really enjoy being around these beautiful warbirds and learning the history of World War II,” said Kelley. “Through projects in the CAF and the newsletter, I am able to share the stories of the Greatest Generation and these remarkable aircraft with others and promote the mission of the Commemorative Air Force.”
This presentation was Kelley’s fifth Emeritus presentation. In addition to several general CAF presentations similar to this one, Kelley has also previously presented on the B-29 Superfortress “FIFI,” the B-24 Liberator “Diamond Lil” and American women in World War II. He has also participated in events for Richland College Veterans Services.
The CAF gives Kelley an outlet to explore another passion of his, scale and 3-D modeling. “I love the detail and craftsmanship involved in the modeling,” he explained. “Each model also represents the story of a person, moment or machine and most of my projects are associated with military history. Now with the CAF, I get to play with the 1:1 scale models!”
Kelley isn’t the only Richland College employee with eyes to the skies. Two other Richland College employees also volunteer for the CAF. Angie Whitney, leadership trainer, is one of the few qualified female loadmasters on a B-24. Lisa Foster, adjunct faculty member, is a living history representation of “Rosie the Riveter,” a World War II icon who symbolized women’s “We Can Do It” attitude by stepping up to work in factories and shipyards. Foster is also the executive officer of the Women Airforce Service Pilots Squadron.
Kelley has been working for Richland College since May 1997. Since then, he has been an Administrator of the Year nominee in 2005 and 2007. His current position is focused on community outreach for corporate services, which provides training to companies at their worksites to provide a more skilled workforce. In turn, this training gives employees the opportunity to earn higher wages and become more promotable through their learned skills.
The Richland College Emeritus plus 50 program provides affordable classes to people ages 50 and older to help them stay intellectually challenged, physically fit and socially connected. Dallas County residents 65 years old and older who have lived in Texas for at least one year may receive free tuition for up to six college credit hours per semester. For more information, visit www.richlandcollege.edu/emeritus.
The CAF B-29/B-24 Squadron maintains, preserves and operates the world’s only operational B-29A, “FIFI,” and B-24A, “Diamond Lil.” The squadron regularly brings together the aircraft, pilots and crews from over 70 CAF units across the country to create the AirPower Squadron, an assortment of military aircraft touring across the U.S. The tour will always include at least one of the squadron’s rare, premiere bombers: “FIFI” or “Diamond Lil.” For more information, visit www.cafb29b24.org.
The CAF is the largest flying museum in the world. It is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to honoring American military aviation history through flight, exhibition and remembrance. The CAF has approximately 12,000 members and a fleet of more than 160 aircraft assigned to 63 units across the country. These units are comprised of CAF volunteer members who restore and operate the planes that are viewed by more than 10 million spectators annually. For more information, visit www.commemorativeairforce.org.