A Meaningful Tribute

by Apr 9, 2024Online Exclusives, People, South Brunswick

Carolina Shores resident Kandy King Nardini has found a way to honor her veteran father, who served on Air Force One.

Nearly two years ago Kandy King Nardini of Carolina Shores undertook a mission that will culminate May 23 and 24 of this year.

She visited the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, in 2022 and learned there was no memorial for the 89th Airlift Wing. The 89th Airlift Wing maintains Air Force One, the designated call sign for the Air Force plane carrying the president.

Nardini says the research she did about this wing indicates her father, Master Sgt. Clarence L. King, was a member of the 89th Airlift Wing. As a member, he was a flight attendant then chief steward on presidential airplanes from 1948 when Truman was president until he retired in 1968 during President Nixon’s term.

Dedication Bench

“He was a trained culinary chef,” Nardini says. “He was the first flight steward cooking hot meals on board presidential flights.” He was also an expert marksman with rifle and pistol, flight navigator, examiner and hydraulic mechanic. He served during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

Nardini and her sister, Connie King Johnson of Las Vegas, Nevada, decided the crews on 89th Airlift Wing needed recognition. They wanted their father’s name displayed on the Legacy Data Plate Wall of Honor at the museum and decided to donate a bench and have it placed in the Memorial Park at the museum.

“We want people to know the sacrifices the crew made on behalf of our country,” Nardini says.

Nardini conferred with a host of officials for more than a year before the director of the museum, David Tillotson III, sent her a letter approving the bench. A letter dated February 1, 2024, confirmed that the plate on the Wall of Honor was installed, and the ceremony is scheduled for May 23. Nardini then had to arrange an honor guard and organize other details for the ceremonies at the dedication of the bench.

“Writing the letter and asking them to accept our proposal was the hardest part,” Nardini says.

Aviation Dedication Bench

Before she sent the letter, she consulted Howie Franklin, director of Cape Fear Regional Jetport in Oak Island. Franklin served on Air Force One from 1976 until 1996, holding the posts King did.

“Cooks were the best flight attendants,” he says. “We were responsible for good service and good food, but also to make sure the food wasn’t tampered with.”

Nardini’s father grew up in Ogden, Utah, and, after high school graduation became a cook at the Bryce Canyon Lodge in Salt Lake City. A year later, in March 1936, he enlisted in the Army. In February 1948 he transferred to the United States Air Force.

Nardini, 70, grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, and says she was on an Air Force One airplane when she was around eight years old but does not remember anything about it. She does remember, though, going to the grocery store with her father to buy the food for the flights.

“He made the menus, and the crew had to be aware of the likes and dislikes of those onboard,” she says. “Then they had to coordinate the menus with the White House.”

Nardini has albums containing pictures of her father, his military service records and employment records, his dog tags and passports. The papers indicate he flew 46 Special Air Missions, seven of which were presidential missions, taking him to Europe, Africa, Greenland and the Far East. She plans to donate the albums to the 89th Airlift Wing, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.

Nardini was 16 when her father died of cancer in 1970. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. At that time she did not know about the details of his job. She remembers her father as an avid reader and a cook.

89th airlift wing dedication Bench

Nardini retired after selling technology to the federal government for 40 years. When she and her husband, Bob, moved to Carolina Shores, she was a fitness, aerobic and aquatic instructor at North Myrtle Beach Aquatic and Fitness Center.

“I know now what the [Air Force One] crew did, but I want all of the crew members to know from here until eternity there’s a memorial bench dedicated to them,” she says.

At the bench dedication, Nardini, Tillotson and probably a representative from the current 89th Airlift Wing will make a statement.

The ceremony at the Legacy Data Plate Wall of Honor will be May 23. The plate reads:

A dedication of the granite bench Nardini designed for the Memorial Park at the museum will take place 10 am on May 24.

“The bench is for all past, present and future members of the 89th Airlift Wing,” Nardini says.
Anyone interested in attending the ceremony can contact Nardini at knardini@hotmail.com.