Mary Posner, who founded and led Columbia’s annual Salute to Veterans parade and air show, died Oct. 26. She was 80.
Posner’s father was Glenn McCleary, a WWI veteran and the dean of the MU law school.
She began the annual program after her father asked her to think of a way to support veterans. She began hosting a parade, which, over time, evolved into the air show that drew hundreds of spectators over the years.
Posner was the co-founder and president of The Memorial Day Weekend Salute to Veterans Corporation, an educational company. Over the years, Posner expanded the scope of the corporation’s activities to include the creation of the annual six-day Salute to Veterans Celebration in Columbia.
The event, held around Memorial Day until 2018, included a free air show, parade and various ceremonies, including a wreath laying at the Boone County Courthouse, in tribute to those who gave their lives in service to our nation.
There was no air show this year, as flooding in Jefferson City kept the airport from being used. The Columbia Regional Airport, long the venue for the air show, was unable to host the event this year because of construction.
An announcement that the event would no longer be held was made earlier this month on the Salute to Veterans Facebook page. Posner died just three days later.
Hundreds of volunteers, a number of them chairing key committees, worked over the years with Posner to make sure the celebration events could be enjoyed by all. The goal was to “Honor and Remember Those Who Served and Those Currently Serving in Our Armed Forces, Guard, Reserves and Our Allies.”
In July, a posting on the Salute to Veterans Facebook page noted that Posner had been honored as a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Foundation in recognition of her years of service towards veterans.
Past air shows featured aerobatic performances that included in some years tactical wings of the U.S. Air Force and flights by aircraft from earlier eras. During the 2018 event, for example, there was a heritage flight featuring a retired P-40N Warhawk flying alongside an active-duty A-10C Thunderbolt II. The flight was meant to serve as a memorial to past military and those serving now, organizers said.
“Many of our military honorees and guests flew those types of aircrafts themselves,” event spokesperson Jessica Houston told the Columbia Missourian in a May 2018 article. “I’ve witnessed and heard countless stories of watching one of these veterans walk up to a plane on the tarmac, and you just see the memories flowing through their mind. They can connect with the aircraft.”
Over the years, organizers traditionally invited around 10 former and current military members to be honored guests at the events.
“Our mission is to always 100 percent salute and honor our veterans,” Houston said in the 2018 article. “It’s been three decades of honoring and remembering.”
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