Local resident creates wooden planes and trains; Donates to Toys for Tots

Several weeks ago, hundreds of area residents gathered to show their support and say their farewells to a group of men setting out to answer their country’s call. These 69 soldiers from Det. 1 Charlie Company 2-112th Infantry (SBCT) marched through town from the Tyrone Armory to Gray-Veterans Field where a special ceremony was held.
Sixty-seven years ago, another group of men, the Sheridan Troop, Troop B, 104th Cavalry made a similar march through Tyrone before their deployment.
In honor of all of these men, the Tyrone History Museum has on display photographs from that first march in 1941, as well as a model of a B-17 “Flying Fortress” from World War II which was constructed from a kit by Davidlee J. Kelley.
Kelley, who currently resides at Epworth Manor with his wife Joy, said he chose to put together the B-17 for some other gentlemen living at the home.
According to Kelley, Wallace Burkett piloted a B-17 for over 50 missions while serving in WWII and Robert Keatley was a gunner on a B-17.
“I built the B-17 because Wallace flew over 50 missions in one of those,” said Kelley, adding Keatley also spent a lot of time on this type of plane.
“These guys spent a lot of time in those planes for our country, and I thought they would enjoy seeing one,” said Kelley.
All three veterans are residents of Epworth Manor, Tyrone.
Kelley, who is a veteran of the Korean War, was stationed in Alaska. He enjoys building model planes and created the B-17 out of Balsa wood and paper.
The B-17, on loan to the museum, took about three and a half months to complete.
Besides his B-17, Kelley said another special model he built was a Red Baron.
Each model plane usually takes about three months to complete.
“I don’t spend an extremely large amount of time working on them,” said Kelley, who added he usually spends 10 to 15 minutes at a time working on the project.
Kelley said he began making model planes and wooden toys following his retirement.
After purchasing half of his parent’s property in Greenwood, Kelley built a home. He then realized he needed to find a hobby.
“We had a large basement,” said Kelley, “My wife used half for her canning and I had the whole other half.”
It’s then that he began making wooden toys.
In his basement, Kelley created about 35 different types of wooden toys. He then traveled around to craft shows such as Hartslog, Prince Gallitzen and the Huntingdon fire hall where he sold his creations.
“I went to about seven to eight shows a year,” said Kelley.
After he and his wife moved to Epworth, Kelley had to sell most of his tools. With a limited number of tools and space available, Kelley was no longer able to make the same variety of toys. He was able to keep a few select pieces of equipment and now focuses his hobby on making wooden airplanes and a five car train. Five years ago, Kelley added model airplanes to his hobby activity.
By the end of the year, Kelley has between 30 and 50 completed toys, which he then donates to Toys for Tots.
Kelley’s interest in planes led him on another adventure recently when he visited the Martinsburg Airport in August during the Wings of Freedom Tour. There, four of the most famous WWII bomber and fighter aircraft were on display, including the B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator, P-51 Mustang and the B-25 Mitchell.
Visitors were invited on walk-through tours and some lucky individuals were able to take to the skies for their own a 30 minute flight experience.
Kelley toured both the B-24 and the fighter plane during his visit.
And, thanks to his children, Michael, Mark and Eileen, Kelley was able to participate in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, flying from Martinsburg to Tipton and back on the B-17.
Michael works in Washington DC as the chief of the budget administration team for the Department of the Interior; Mark lives with his wife Kathy near Denver, Colorado and is a Mechanical Engineer for Seagate Technology; Eileen is married to Donald Gearhart and she works in Harrisburg in the Attorney General’s office.
The Sheridan Troop display, along with Kelley’s model B-17, will be on display at the Tyrone History Museum through Veterans Day. The museum is open every Sunday and Wednesday from 1 to 4 p.m.