- Associated Press - Monday, November 28, 2016

HAYDEN, Idaho (AP) - An obscure Idaho museum with an enthusiastic staff is looking for a new home and, perhaps, a sponsor.

Richard Le Francis runs the Pappy Boyington Veterans Museum in Hayden with a couple colleagues, the Coeur d’Alene Press reported (https://bit.ly/2gPdkYY ). The institution showcases artifacts and memorabilia from the life of Boyington, a World War II flying ace and Medal of Honor winner who was born in Coeur d’Alene.

Boyington was charismatic and considered a bit of a character - so much so that a 1970s TV show called “Baa Baa Black Sheep” was based on the exploits of the “Black Sheep” squadron he led. Before the museum endeavor, Le Francis and fellow sculptor Bryan Ross were involved in creating and installing a statue of Boyington near the local airport.

When Le Francis helped start the museum, he set it up in the only available building near the airport: an old structure owned by the Fraternal Order of Eagles. It was in bad shape, Le Francis said, but he convinced the Eagles to lease the space to him.

“It was almost yellow and you could still smell cigarette smoke,” he said. “The Eagles were planning to have it demolished.”

Le Francis worked said the museum has grown over the years, with more artifacts coming in than can be displayed in the 5,000-square-foot building. But the museum is strapped for cash, he said, and the Eagles have now terminated the museum’s lease. It expires December 31 and Le Francis said he was unable to purchase the building.

Eagles employee Deanna Chapin told the Coeur d’Alene Press on Friday that the club’s board of trustees wants to rent out the building for events like conferences, weddings and memorial services. The museum’s offer to buy the building wasn’t nearly strong enough to make the transaction work, she said.

“We don’t want to kick him out in the cold,” Chapin added.

Le Francis said he isn’t sure what will happen next, although he has a hangar at the airport where the artifacts can be stored until he secures a new spaced. He’s dreaming of a “proper museum” being built on an empty lot near the airport.

“This area needs a first-class meeting space, not to mention a café for the airport customers. We could provide all of that in a fantastic museum that’s basically in the shadow of Pappy’s statue,” said Le Francis.

Le Francis said the museum needs a sponsor of some sort to fund the project.

“It would be fantastic publicity for them, and it would allow the area to continue the museum tribute to Pappy Boyington,” Le Francis said. “Somehow, some way, we’re just determined that a museum this valuable to the Coeur d’Alene area is just not going to go away.”

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Information from: Coeur d’Alene Press, https://www.cdapress.com

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