Captain Walter “Nemo” Niemi pictured on a CF-104 Starfighter – Photo from Niemi family
The family of a Canadian fighter pilot killed while serving at 4 Wing is in the planning stages of a permanent memorial to him.
Captain Walter “Nemo” Niemi was a pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) from 1981 until 1989, when he died in an accident while flying with 410 Tactical Fighter Operational Training Squadron in Cold Lake. Between that time, Niemi also flew a CF-104 Starfighter at 4 Wing, as well as at CFB Baden-Soellingen in Germany.
Niemi’s family says plans are in the works to take possession of the wing of a Starfighter and use it as a memorial to him in the community of Birsay, Saskatchewan, where he was born.
“We were recently offered the opportunity to purchase the wing from a CF-104 Starfighter. This wing will be restored by the vendor to display quality and mounted on a base to become a standing monument as per the above Mission Statement,” says Niemi’s sister, Nikki Niemi Cammack, in a letter to members of the Rural Municipality of Coteau in Saskatchewan.
“Wally’s wife Mary Niemi has put forth a significant amount of money to purchase the wing, so this project is now a reality and the planning is underway. Because we are just in the beginning stages, no decisions have been made about details, and we are gathering information in order to make the decisions.”
The family had originally started a fundraising campaign to raise just-over $63,000 in an earlier bid to buy a whole Starfighter aircraft for the memorial. Niemi’s family says that idea is now on the back burner.
The wing is planned to be mounted with a plaque and painted with a Maple Leaf roundel. The family says the wing tip position indicator light will be wired so that “…the light could stay on 24/7, like an eternal flame. It could be powered either by a small solar panel or have underground power run to the wing.”
The family says the installation of the monument could come as early as September of 2022.
Niemi’s family says they’re now waiting to hear from the RM of Croteau on a decision on if it can be put in the community, but says “what they decide will be crucial but not life threatening for our project.”
“To our knowledge, there is not a memorial like this anywhere in Canada,” says Niemi Cammack in the letter. “It has the potential to give Birsay and area a distinction and feeling of pride that one of their own served his country and became such a part of history. Who would think that a little prairie hamlet would be home to this tangible link to Canada’s significant role in post-war NATO peacekeeping and in the Cold War.”
More information about Captain Walter Niemi and the original plan for a memorial project are available on the “Remembering Wally” website.