About the Flying Leatherneck Historical FoundationProvides Volunteers and Funds to Support the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum
The original Foundation was established in 1989 at MCAS El Toro. When Base Realignment closed El Toro in 1999, a group of retired Marines from San Diego, led by Major Generals Bob Butcher and Frank Lang, formed the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation and moved the aircraft and artifacts to MCAS Miramar.
The Foundation provides volunteers to restore historic aircraft and staff the Museum so it is open to the public six days per week. It also provides funds and materials to support the restoration and maintenance of the historical aircraft, fund Museum operations and educational programs, and preserve artifacts.
The Foundation and its University of San Diego partner host workshops for San Diego County teachers. The workshops fill a gap in teacher training. According to the U.S. Department of Education, only 12% of America’s high school seniors are “proficient” in U.S. History. Surveys of educators indicate teacher resources are badly needed.
Essay Contest for 6-12 grades
A San Diego County-wide patriotically-themed essay contest for grades 6-12 is held each year.
Marine Wife of the Year Award
A Marine Wife is recognized annually with a plaque and stipend for outstanding service and dedication to her community, her family and the Marine Corps.
Distinguished Service Award
Periodically an American citizen is recognized for his or her service to the nation. In 2018, Major General Charles F. Bolden, Jr., USMC aviator, patriot, astronaut and NASA administrator was recognized with the award.
Patrick Ball has devoted his career to Education. For over 27 years Patrick served the non-profit sector in various capacities at the Gemologicial Institute of America (GIA) with a career spanning public speaking, project management to public relations liaison.
Edward DeRoche, PhD
Edward DeRoche, Ph.D., joined the University of San Diego’s School of Education as dean in 1979 and returned to the faculty as professor and director of the Center for Character Development Center in 1998. DeRoche has published more than fifty articles in education journals and many articles in daily newspapers. He has authored or co-authored several books on education topics including teaching, administrative leadership, and character education.
CAPT Ronald G. Ress
JAGC, USNR - Retired
Mr. Ress is the CFO/Treasurer of the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation, and a valued member of the executive management team. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Government and International Relations from New York University in 1965, and a Doctor of Laws from Cornell University in 1968. He completed his military service as the senior Naval Reserve Judge Advocate in Europe and retired with the rank of Captain in 2005 with numerous awards.
Patrick Towle is a CPA in private practice. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from San Diego State University. In 1996, Mr. Towle received his Master of Science in Accountancy, also from San Diego State. He is the son and brother of Marine Aviators.
Lt. Col. Joe Bassi, PhD
Joseph P. (Joe) Bassi, Assistant Professor of Arts and Sciences at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University/Worldwide, completed his PhD in History at the University of California, Santa Barbara in June 2009. A retired US Air Force officer with twenty-six years of active duty, After retirement from active service, Professor Bassi served as a space policy analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense while working for the Aerospace Corporation.
Col. John Farnam
USMC - Retired
John served 26 years in the Marine Corps as a Weapons and Sensors Officer flying the FA-18D. He flew numerous combat sorties in Bosnia Herzegovina, Kosovo and Iraq. John was a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron Instructor and selected as the Marine Corps Aviation Naval Flight Officer of the Year in 1998. He served as the Commanding Officer of Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron -533 (VMFA(AW)-533) and as a Colonel was the Commanding Officer of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. Retiring from the Marine Corps in 2015 he is now the Vice President for Business Operations at Receptos.
Lara Ryan active duty spouse and daughter of a Coast Guard Officer Lara has 20 years working in the field of philanthropy, most recently as a CEO and Director of Development with a focus on military and veteran causes. Laura also volunteer activities include Active Valor, the USMC Executive Ball; she is a financial readiness instructor at The Honor Foundation, is on the Advisory Board of the SDMAC, and is the Chair of the planning committee for the Veteran Entrepreneur Summit.
David an executive leader in corp America currently focused on non-profit health center at Family Health Centers of San Diego. David, grew up in a flying family with a US Air Force father he appreciates the value MCAS Miramar brings to San Diego and the importance of the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum to preserving Marine Corps aviation history.
Col. Victor Bianchini
Victor is a distinguished Reserve Marine Corps Legal Officer, civilian lawyer, and San Diego County Superior Court Judge. His active duty tours are numerous and honors including San Diego Trial Lawyers’ Judge of the Year, served as a Senior Fulbright Scholar in the Sub-Saharan African country of Eritrea.
Frank Lorey is a Federal and State-registered Historian and owner of Historical Archaeology Services. Including, project manager and historical designer for Old Poway Park, and is rated as Museum Curator I and II by the State of California. He has written 15 books (most are college-level textbooks) and has authored over 530 published magazine and journal articles including multiple appearances on the History Channel, PBS, HGTV and other network shows.
Rear Admiral Lou Smith
Lou Smith is a career naval officer in the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps. He completed three tours in Vietnam, supervising construction of combat facilities for the Marines. Later in his naval career, he was sent to Washington, DC where he worked with the Department of Defense and Congress on military base construction projects. He retired from the Navy in 2000 as a two-star Admiral, directly responsible for more than 360 major naval bases throughout the world.
Major Francis “Mike” Wifler
Mike enlisted in the Marine Corps and served as a Field Radio Operator with a rifle company. He served a tour in the Republic of Vietnam where he was wounded. He later became a commissioned officer. Awarded: Purple Heart, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with combat ‘V‘ for Valor.
Robert “Bob” Cramsie is a career aerospace maintenance and manufacturing technician. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Aviation Technology from Everglades University and a Masters of Aeronautical Science with an emphasis on Human Factors in Aviation Systems from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Today, he is currently a volunteer in charge of restoration of the Douglas SBD-1 Dauntless that is the pride of the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum.
CAPT Bill O'Connor
Captain Bill O’Connor began his military service in 1969 when he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. He earned his Naval Flight Officer (NFO) wings 1971, and became a Bombardier/Navigator in the A-6 Intruder.
Lieutenant Colonel Richard "Touch" Toettcher
Richard (Touch) Toettcher was commission a 2nd Lt in Oct.1963. His first duty assignment after being designated a Naval Aviator was with MAG-36 at MCAS Tustin, serving with HMM-363,263, and 361. After a distinguished career “Touch” retired from the Marine Corps in 1986.
Sergeant Major Michael Zacker
USMC - Retired
Mike is a highly decorated and accomplished Marine whose illustrious worldwide career on land, sea and air spanned two wars retiring after thirty years of service. Today he continues to serve though volunteering American Red Cross, and the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program.
“Ex Officio” Members
Christopher Van Stelle
Christopher is the new Museum Director, as well as the Director of the MCAS Miramar Air Show. He is Vice President of the Southwest Council of Air Shows, a Regional Council of the International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) and consults on numerous aviation events around Southern California each year
Steve "Smitty" Smith
Steve “Smitty” Smith is the Curator of the Flying Leathernecks Aviation Museum. Initially as a volunteer in 1994 in the restoration section he joined FLAM full-time in 1999 as Museum Librarian subsequently promoted to Asst. Curator in 2001 and as Curator in 2009.Smitty served in the United States Marine Corps from 1979 to 1999. He retired as a Staff Sergeant and Motor Transport Operations Chief at MCAS El Toro.
Jon H. Epsten
Jon is a valued member of the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation’s team and founding shareholder in the law firm of Epsten Grinnell & Howell, APC. Jon works on behalf of community associations encompasses providing advice on all types of corporate matters.