Airman’s family establishes memorial funds

By Brenna Swift, The Union Democrat February 05, 2013 12:59 pm

The family of Maj. Lucas Gruenther, an Air Force pilot from Twain Harte who died last week in a jet airplane accident, has set up a memorial fund in his name. 

The Major Lucas Gruenther Memorial Fund will be used to support people who exemplify Gruenther’s spirit and qualities, said his brother, Air Force Capt. Alexander Gruenther. 

 

It will also support groups and interests Lucas Gruenther had in life. 

A second fund, the Serene Gruenther fund, will help support his daughter. His wife, Cassy Gruenther, is just a few weeks away from giving birth to Serene. The couple had no other children. 

Those who knew Lucas Gruenther will have another opportunity to help his family. 

“Cassy would love if people that knew Luc could write letters to Serene to let her know when she grows up how great her father is,” Alex Gruenther said in an email to The Union Democrat. 

Condolences, letters and donations to either fund may be sent to Cassy Gruenther, PSC 103 Box 2718, APO, AE 09603-0028. 

Both Lucas and Cassy Gruenther, daughter of Randy and Kerry Williams of Tuolumne, graduated from Summerville High School in 1999. 

Lucas Gruenther was chief of flight safety for the Air Force 31st Fighter Wing, stationed at Aviano Air Base in Italy. He was conducting a nighttime training sortie over the Adriatic Sea Monday when the base lost contact with his F-16.

A massive international search and rescue effort followed. Search teams recovered debris from Gruenther’s F-16, including a parachute and helmet, on Tuesday. An Italian vessel located his body Thursday afternoon. 

A memorial service will be held at Aviano Air Base this week, according to Alex Gruenther, who is stationed at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. 

He, Kerry Williams and Gruenther’s mother, Romel Mathias, all flew to Italy to support Cassy Gruenther as soon as they heard the news of his disappearance. 

In response to an outpouring of support received throughout the week, they set up a memorial website at www.lucasgruenther.com. Dozens of well-wishers had posted messages of sympathy to the site by Sunday. 

The site detailed a Sunday run and walk held in Maniago, Italy, to honor Gruenther, drawing more than 100 people. 

A funeral with full military honors will take place for Gruenther at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, where he graduated with distinction in 2003. A service will also be held in Tuolumne County. 

The dates for the services have yet to be determined. Alex Gruenther said they will take place after Serene Gruenther is born, allowing her and her mother to return safely to the United States. 

Meanwhile, Lucas Gruenther was promoted posthumously from captain to major. He earned the promotion in 2011, but it was finalized last week by the Air Force.