Dick Goldstine's father was a mechanic at the Millville airport and he grew up flying model airplanes there. Goldstine himself served in the Air Force.
Now 67, the Millville resident still spends most days at the airport, part of a crew of volunteers at the Millville Army Air Field Museum who help to restore old World War II-era vehicles, or do whatever jobs are needed to keep the museum operating.
"We're keeping alive the history of the Millville airport and what the guys who were here did," Goldstine said.
Volunteers have always helped at local historical air museums during large events. But as grants have become harder to get and budgets get tighter, museum officials rely even more on a core group volunteers who add a personal - and sometimes historical - touch to the exhibits.
At the Naval Air Station Wildwood Air Museum at the Cape May airport in Lower Township, volunteers work as greeters, welcoming visitors and providing information.
"Most of them are older folks, interested in aviation, and they really like getting to talk to people who visit," said Bruce Fournier, Wildwood museum deputy director.
Jane Kotz's late husband worked as a pilot at the Wildwood airport, and since they were always out at the airport, she was asked to volunteer. She moved to Florida for awhile, but then moved back to North Cape May two years ago.
"People come when they're on vacation, but we also recently had a young man from Cape May who said he'd never been here," Kotz said.
Bob Olivieri of North Cape May said he's learned things from the guests who visit, including a German Messerschmitt pilot from World War II.
"We talked for 45 minutes," he said.
Olivieri, 82, said he likes to keep busy, and likes talking to people. Volunteering at the museum lets him do both.
"I'm one of those people who always puts his hand up to help," he said. "I'd rather be doing something than nothing."
In Millville, the volunteers work on equipment, but also help organize events, paint and change lightbulbs as needed.
"It's fun out here," said Jerry Benfer, a retired educator and member of the Millville museum board who came out one day about 10 years ago and never stopped helping.
Tim Jacobsen, 63, of Millville came out with Goldstine one day and wound up tearing apart and restoring a 1973 military truck.
Millville museum director Lisa Jester said earlier volunteers were typically from the World War II era, but now they are getting people from the Vietnam era. The museum has begun adding information about the Korean and Vietnam wars to the museum.
Some, but not all of the volunteers were in military service. George Lods, 70, of Millville, served with the Army military police in France.
"This is an opportunity to be part of history," he said.
Ron Franz,80, of Millville served in an Army tank unit, and got involved with the museum because an antique car club he belonged to used to meet at the airport.
"Then I drifted over here, too," he said. "I'm here every morning. I'll do bricklaying, painting and electrical work, but not plumbing. I hate plumbing."
Roy Wilson, 79, of Mays Landing, teaches a model airplane and Introduction to Aviation class on Saturdays at the Millville museum for children ages 12 and older. He sees the classes as a way to interest the younger generation in history and aviation.
"We take them out on the flightline, talk to pilots," he said. "We want them to think of aviation as a career. The trick is to keep them mesmerized."
Volunteers said their work makes them feel like they are contributing to the preservation of America's history.
Mike Hajek, 81, of Rio Grande, spent the Labor Day weekend at the Cape May airport, though he admits his legs don't hold up as well as they used to. A transplant from South Brunswick, he moved south in 2000 after his first wife died because he got lonesome and had friends in the Cape May County area.
"It's in my blood to volunteer," he said, and working at the museum makes him feel that he also making a contribution to history.
"I don't want the history of our country to die out," he said. "This is a way to teach people."
Contact Diane D'Amico:
A 12-week Introduction to Aviation course for young people ages 12 and older is held at the Millville Army Air Field Museum, at the Millville airport from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays beginning Sept. 7. The fee is $125 and includes a subscription to Model Aviation Magazine, and five flying model airplanes. Call 856-327-2347 to register.
An Aviation Celebration will be held at the Millville Army Air Field Museum from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 28. Cost is $5 and children younger than 6 are free. Event will feature World War II-vintage aircraft. Call 856-327-2347.