Port Townsend Aero Museum honored Sunday as the Port Townsend Chamber of Commerce Citizens of the Year: Jerry and Peggy Thuotte

By Fred Obee of The Leader

The collaborators behind the Port Townsend Aero Museum were honored Sunday as the Port Townsend Chamber of Commerce Citizens of the Year.

Jerry and Peggy Thuotte, the co-founders of the museum, reacted with the humility they are known for.

"Everyone deserves this more than me," an emotional Jerry Thuotte told the chamber crowd at Fort Worden.

The Aero Museum, a new 18,000-square-foot, $2.5 million building with a graceful, arching roof, opened at the Jefferson County airport in 2007. It houses dozens of restored antique airplanes on three levels.

A former Army drill sergeant and a pilot for United Airlines for 33 years, Jerry, with his wife, Peggy, moved to Jefferson County eight years ago from Enumclaw with a love for restoring old airplanes and a dedication to seeing young people stay off drugs.

In Enumclaw, Jerry trained youngsters in the exacting task of restoring airplanes. In Jefferson County, at the urging of friends who had seen the results of Thuotte's mentoring, he and Peggy bought a hangar, secured contracts to restore old planes and invited young people to come to his shop to learn the craft. Peggy, also a licensed pilot, took on the books, pitched in on teaching aircraft restoration work, particularly fabric, and became a housemother to the young people who work at the museum. Together, they now have a collection of about 30 airplanes.

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