Memorial requested for local helicopter pioneer

Ross Graham is pictured with a portrait of his late father, Commander Stewart Graham Sr., which was unveiled in 2016 as part of the Flight Shrine Induction in N.C.

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — A longtime resident of Naples, Stewart Ross Graham Sr., had his hands on the controls of helicopters during the infancy of that machinery.

Even his family was unaware of how much he had impacted the history books through his involvement in the aviation world.

“To put it in perspective, he taught Charles Lindbergh how to fly a helicopter,” said Mike Roland, with the Coast Guard Aviation Association.

Earlier this month, Roland and Graham’s son Ross Graham asked the Naples Board of Selectmen to approve a monument being placed to honor Stewart Ross Graham.

“This is going to be something to signify that Stew Graham was from Naples, Maine. If you look in aviation history, the long list of everything done first in a helicopter – Stew did it. And, I think it is going to be an honor for Naples [residents] to say this guy came from our town,” Roland said.

According to Ross Graham, his dad “passed away last year.”

“I think it would be a good tribute to him because he was a longtime resident of Naples. That is what we are requesting: Some stone memorial that is small, something that would fit in with what is there now. A traditional stone memorial — if at all possible — that would fit in there.”

Ross Graham said he did not realize the significance of what his father did with helicopters until much later in life.

The senior Graham did at age 99 in 2016.

Seventy years earlier on Sept. 15, 1946, “The world’s first major airlines crash found him flying an early model Sikorsky helicopter, rescuing survivor from an inaccessible site. For his actions, he was commissioned ‘A Knight of the Order of Leopold’ by the Belgium government.”

From across the world to across New England, Stew Graham earned accolades for his aviation achievements.

“There are hangers named after him at Cape Cod. Any Coast Guard rescue comes from Cape Cod,” Roland said.

The selectmen were being asked for permission to make an addition to the Veterans’ monument because the memorial is located on public property.

“The reason we are involved is that we control that space,” Chairman Jim Grattelo asked.

Ross Graham responded.

“Yes, it is town property. The monuments are managed by” the American Legion Post 155; and the Legion members referred the matter to the board of selectmen, Ross Graham said.

“Because this is an additional stone,” Grattelo clarified.

Roland said if the board approved this, “the Coast Guard will come up with drawings.”

The board gave its nod of approval for the men to move forward with the memorial to Stew Graham.

Additionally, the selectmen asked for a list of requirements or the protocol for adding memorial stones to the town’s Veterans monument for future reference.

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