With the end of World War II, interest in Russell and Francis Halligan’s planes began to wane.
Meanwhile, young Milton McClure’s father, Milton McClure Sr., returned home from military service. In 1948, the senior McClure, a Republican, was elected Cass County state’s attorney in a stunning upset over Democrat incumbent Chuck Colburn.
The McClure family would move into their own home. Young McClure attended schools in Beardstown, went on to become an attorney and served in the military. His years of living across the alley from the Halligans faded from memory, that is until 1980.
On July 28, 1980, Russell Halligan died quite unexpectedly. Not long afterwards, McClure received a call from Francis Halligan. His sister, LaNora, was in failing health. Halligan felt he could no longer properly care for her. McClure assisted in securing LaNora admission to Sunset Home, a Methodist senior facility in Quincy. She passed away on March 14, 1981.
Francis Halligan would again call McClure, this time to tell McClure of his decision to move to Sunset Home. McClure agreed to help Halligan with the sale of his home and contents. It was then that Francis Halligan gave McClure the curious model plane.
“I didn’t have any idea of what it was or its historical value,” McClure recalled. “I first put it in the waiting area of our law offices where people could easily see it. However, people were always touching it and I was concerned it would be damaged. That’s when I hung it from the ceiling of my own office. There it stayed for more than 30 years. I thought it was time to donate it (to the museum).”
Made of wood and metal and covered in paper, the little Halligan Plane actually was a working model capable of flight. It was powered by three rubber bands, the remnants of which were still in the plane when given to McClure.
Old Lincoln Courtroom & Museum Commissioner Connie Foley, chair of the Display Committee, said the model now occupies a place of prominence in the Halligan display area.
“Milt McClure makes the history of Beardstown come alive with his storytelling,” Foley said. “He not only has given the museum wonderful items, he has also provided the history and background concerning the law books, Masonic coins, the Halligan model and other donations. The commissioners are so appreciative of Milt's generosity.”
Francis Halligan passed away on Sept. 3, 1984. Francis, Russell and LaNora are buried next to their parents in Beardstown’s Lutheran Cemetery.
The Halligan story is an American classic. They were the sons of an English immigrant father and first generation German mother. Both attended the Illinois College Conservatory of Music. Both had musical talent and Francis would become an accomplished pianist.
They became successful businessmen. And though they had no formal engineering or mechanical training, they created a unique aircraft along with countless models that actually flew. They even built miniature gasoline engines to power some of their models, which were sold both as kits and pre-assembled planes.
Though they left no heirs, they left something even more important – a legacy of gritty determination and creativity to inspire future generations to pursue their dreams.