Monument Honors Robert & Estelle Terry’s Tuskegee Airmen Efforts

This Memorial Day, Bernards Township has a new monument honoring veterans and residents Robert & Estelle Terry’s Tuskegee Airmen efforts. A granite slab with a bronze plaque, alongside two banners of Captain Robert Terry and his wife Estelle Terry surround the monument. The monument stands under a Somerset Hills Airport historical marker just a few hundred feed where Robert Terry lived, worked, and eventually passed.

Back in 2020, the Mr. Local History Project presented an extensive Retrospective of Captain Robert Terry and his wife Estelle (see below) and we’re glad we did. A campaign to create a monument honoring Basking Ridge’s Captain Robert and Estelle Terry began in 2021 amid the Covid pandemic, but became a reality in May 2022.

Monument honors Robert & Estelle Terry of Basking Ridge, New Jersey and their Tuskegee Airmen efforts.
Click to Enlarge Plaque

The Terry monument sits directly across the street from Basking Ridge’s War Memorial Field on South Maple Avenue on the property of Lord Stirling Village. Five other memorials around Bernards Township honor fallen American soldiers who gave their life serving their country.

Learn about Robert and Estelle’s journey by clicking the story after the transcript of the Terry’s monument below:

Here, at the former site of the Somerset Hills Airport, Bernards Township pays tribute to Captain Robert Terry and Estelle Terry.

As a young African American, Robert, a 1930 graduate of Bernards High School, lived in a house across the street from the airport and dreamed of flying. In 1931, in exchange for flight lessons, he cleared most of the airport’s runway and obtained his pilot’s license. When WWII broke out, he applied to the Army Air Force, but was rejected due to ongoing segregation. Determined to serve, in 1941 he became a flight instructor at Moton Field, Alabama for the famed Tuskegee Airmen, a group of all-black fighters and bomber squadrons.

Estelle, joined him and support the war effort by packing the airman’s parachutes ( Caterpillar Club) and delivering mail. She also gave birth to their son, earned her pilot’s license, and flew various types of aircraft including bombers.

After the war, the Terry’s returned to their home in Bernards Township. Robert applied to major airlines to work as a pilot,but his applications were routinely rejected because of his race. He went onto instruct US Air Force Reservists as Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, NY and was the Chief Pilot and Instructor at the Somerset Hills Airport until his death in 1958. Estelle volunteered as a nurse’s aide for many years at the Lyons Veterans Administration. She died in 2009.

By Act of Congress in 2006, the Tuskegee Airmen, which included fight instructors, were collectively awarded a Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of their unique military record, which “inspired revolutionary reform, paving the way for full racial integration in the US Armed Forces. They overcame the enormous challenges of prejudice and discrimination, succeeding, despite obstacle that threatened then with failure.”

Thus, we thank and honor Captain Robert and Estelle Terry for their devotion to our country, their strength of character in the face of bias and racism and their historic achievements.

Dedicated by the citizens of Bernards Township, 2022

Read More About Robert and Estelle Terry from Basking Ridge, New Jersey

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