WTOC Senior Active: Jerry McLaughlin and Jim Grismer - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

WTOC Senior Active: Jerry McLaughlin and Jim Grismer

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Jim Grismer and Jerry McLaughlin have spent thousands of hours restoring a B-17, but their friendship runs much longer. Jim Grismer and Jerry McLaughlin have spent thousands of hours restoring a B-17, but their friendship runs much longer.
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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Agreeing to oversee the restoration of the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum's B-17 bomber was not the first reason people thought Jerry McLaughlin and Jim Grismer were crazy.

"When the museum got the plane,'' said McLaughlin, "there were a lot of people in the  B-17 community that felt, 'who are these people? They're rookies, they don't know anything.'''

The two old friends have dismissed those doubts through thousands of hours inching toward their one stated goal of making the "City of Savannah'' the finest static B-17 on display in the world.

"It's five years later,'' said McLaughlin, "and we get people calling up and saying, ‘hey, can you make us a part? Can you find us something?' We feel we've established ourselves.''

That is just the latest experience the two have shared during a 40-year friendship.

"We were in the same volunteer fire department on Long Island,'' said Grismer, the former general manager of operations at The World Trade Center. "We hit it off immediately.''

"We were each other's best man at our weddings and when we came down here, we were in the same volunteer fire department together,'' adds McLaughlin, who had a career in the intelligence community. "And we did a lot of things together in between.''

There have been 140 volunteers on the B-17 project.

McLaughlin, the project manager, and Grismer, his right-hand man, are two of the nine who have been there from the start.

Today, they share pride in its near completion and from the palpable impact they see the plane have on the men who flew one like it in World War II.

"It becomes very emotional,'' said Grismer of visits by WWII veterans with their families, "Because they talk about things his children have never heard before.''

"It motivates you to keep going,'' added McLaughlin, "because it's so important to these people.''

This friendship will keep going, from Long Island to Savannah and beyond the thousands of hours spent perfecting the Mighty Eighth's B-17.

"If we finish,'' says Grismer only half jokingly, "we'll probably be looking for a B-24.''

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