MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Jimmy Buffett is being remembered the world over for his music. Buffett grew-up in Mobile and passed away Friday night after a long battle with skin cancer. This weekend, we’re also getting a glimpse of his philanthropy. He anonymously donated two of his planes to Battleship Memorial Park last year. It’s a gesture both steeped in Buffett lore and continues the park’s educational mission.
The two aircraft have been assembled for months inside the Medal of Honor Pavillion. Whenever someone asked who donated them, people in the know would sheepishly say it was anonymous, all the while knowing they came from one of the biggest names in music.
A Boeing Stearman, with flowers tucked into a wing, was prominently featured in the music video for the Jimmy Buffett song “Trip Around the Sun.” A second plane, a Grumman Goose, was also owned by Buffett and could be seen in Buffett branding like this version of the plane hanging in a Margaritaville resort in Biloxi. The Goose now on display at Battleship Park is restored to how it looked 80 years ago. It was part of the Royal Canadian Air Force and patrolled the Canadian border during World War II.
“It’s amazing. It’s something we can visit often. Our children or grandchildren can grow up knowing that it’s his and it’s a piece of us now,” said Jessica Nguyen from Bilxoi, Mississippi. She was visiting the aircraft pavilion Sunday morning with her family. Next to the Goose, a wreath, Hawaiian shirt, and marker paid tribute to Buffett.
“For me, it’s the tying to Jimmy, the fact that it’s something that he’s had in his own personal collection as well. It just helps somebody get a little bit closer to him,” said Clayton Harris from El Dorado, Arkansas. Park Officials say Buffett’s camp contacted the Battleship Park Foundation in 2022 about donating the planes anonymously. The planes shipped in pieces and reassembled at the Medal of Honor Pavillion. They were publicly displayed while the donor remained private. It was a tough secret to keep.
“Now, the folks involved here, as we’re doing this project to not just say proudly, yes, guess what we have… Jimmy Buffett’s planes!” said Chairman of the USS Alabama Commission Terry Ankerson. He also went to school with Buffett at McGill-Toolen.
“He’ll always be part of Mobile. And this is one of those steps where Jimmy Buffet is part of Battleship Park,” said Ankerson. Officials with Battleship Memorial Park managed to keep Jimmy Buffett’s name under wraps for more than a year. They had planned on making a public announcement earlier this year. They say Buffett kept delaying it until time ran out. In retrospect, they realized the delays were due to Buffett’s declining health.
“It hurts. It’s still hurting to this day, personally, of not seeing Jimmy one-on-one in here talking to us in person,” said Anderson. It’s the loss of one more chance to say thanks and give a salute to the king of the island escape.