By Dan Harkins
DELAND - Jack Fortes first came to this city by way of the war effort, back in January 1945. He'd just served a tour on an island in the Pacific Ocean. Now it was time to rig parachutes for the pilots training at the DeLand Naval Air Station.
The place holds a lot of memories for the 88-year-old, and now it will hold even more of them.
In the coming months, the DeLand Naval Air Station Museum that Mr. Vance has helped to guide since it was dedicated two decades ago will undergo an expansion, allowing curators like Mr. Vance to give visitors an even more immersive view of what the wartime '40s were like.
"It's extremely important," he said. "I've been a member of this museum since we opened in 1995 and we've been talking about expanding for almost 18 years of that time. So to finally see this is beyond my greatest imagination, and to know that it's coming very soon is even better."
A 50-by-60-foot building behind the museum, at 810 Biscayne Blvd. overlooking the DeLand Municipal Airport, was recently donated by Ron Herman, owner of All-Quality Products, Mr. Vance said.
Mr. Herman has also agreed to perform much of the labor for the design of the space, which will contain more display areas, as well as room to store other historic relics like an early helicopter and a Grumman TBF Avenger, a torpedo bomber that volunteers are currently restoring to look as good as the snarling F-14 that overlooks the museum's parking lot.
"He originally gave us a very large building and it was too big to build there," Mr. Vance said about Mr. Herman, who was unavailable for comment, "so we donated that to a church and now he's given us this smaller building. It's a blessing."
The building's redesign work was slated to start in August, Mr. Vance said, but they've had some delays.
"I thought we would have started something earlier this week but for the rain," he said.
Mr. Vance hopes the construction can be finished by Nov. 17, which would coincide with a hangar dance to celebrate the museum's 70th anniversary.