Hall of Fame Inductee
Wendell McEldowney was a young man of 21 when Hugh Robinson became the first person to fly an airplane down the Mississippi River valley in 1911. Five years later, McEldowney and two of his West Salem neighbors built their copy of a Curtiss Pusher and flew it over the bluffs and coulees of La Crosse County.
An automobile dealer and vegetable farmer, McEldowney believed in the future of aviation and, in 1919, purchased stock in the ill-fated Lawson Airplane Company, the pioneering builder of commercial airliners located in Milwaukee.
McEldowney was a tireless booster of aviation in Western Wisconsin. He pioneered the use of aircraft in vegetable farming and produced his own Aviator Brand of canned peas. He was an active proponent of the French Island site for the new La Crosse Airport. He established and led the La Crosse squadron of the Civil Air Patrol from 1942 to 1954. McEldowney has been recognized for his many efforts on behalf of aviation by community, business, and government leaders.
His contributions were best summarized by long time La Crosse Airport manager Frank Muth, who said of Wendell McEldowney, "I know of no one who has given more in time and effort or who has received less in material gain, to a dedicated goal, then Wendell McEldowney. His only reward had been the satisfaction of witnessing the progress of aviation."