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As Peter Limberger watched the King Air 350 take off from Aurora Municipal Airport Tuesday morning, he couldn’t help but think about his childhood in postwar Germany, and how grateful he and his family were for those flights arriving from the United States with desperately-needed items for his war-ravaged homeland.
“This is what America is all about,” said 73-year-old Limberger, who has lived all over the world – including France, Venezuela, the Middle East and yes “even Russia for a time” – but as of three months ago can officially call himself a United States citizen.
Limberger, who co-founded CL Enterprises, which last summer became the parent company of revv aviation, had plenty of reasons for flashback emotions as one of its planes left the runway of the airport in Sugar Grove on its way to JFK International Airport in New York City.
The small blue and white aircraft was carrying two dozen large duffel bags filled with desperately needed items, including medical supplies, for Ukraine. Also on board was the Oswego woman, a trained disaster relief volunteer for Crisis Response International, who collected all these supplies and will continue traveling with them to their next destination in Krakow, Poland.
Rene Koehler, who will spend almost two weeks helping refugees in an overnight shelter near the Slovakian border and run supplies into Ukraine, was “overwhelmed” by the response she got from the Aurora-area community after putting out a call on social media asking for donations.
And she was equally appreciative of this mercy flight offer from Limberger and revv aviation CEO Guy Lieser on Friday that made it possible to transport this large cargo.
Koehler was, of course, the much-deserved star of the exuberant Tuesday morning send-off she and her cargo received inside revv aviation’s sparkling-clean hangar. There, city officials and media folks joined dozens of well-wishers from the community, including those like retired teachers Kim Johnson of Yorkville and Annette Laughlin of Aurora, who not only contributed to this project but helped pack some of the thousands of donated items.
“I just had to be here,” said Johnson. “What Rene did was wonderful.”
“It was so much fun to be part of it,” added Laughlin.
Few, however, could have been more excited than Limberger, whose impressive international resume includes the construction of a major nuclear weapons engineering security project for the U.S. Air Force and NATO in the 1980s.
And the engineer-turned-entrepreneur wasn’t just smiling broadly on Tuesday because his company was able to help make this humanitarian flight possible: Limberger is a huge cheerleader for the country he now proudly calls “my America.” And watching the outpouring of local support for people so far away, Limberger told me, is what makes him even more proud, more grateful to be where he is at this moment in his life.
“I believe in America, I believe in small towns and unlimited opportunities,” he said, insisting there “is no other place in the world like this.”
Expressing little concern about the divisiveness in this country most of us complain about, Limberger instead believes “this is a time of revival,” where more than ever America is a place of unlimited opportunities and the chance to “do everything.”
His Peru, Illinois-based company seems to be doing just that, particularly in smaller Midwest towns and cities like Aurora.
After a distinguished career in construction and manufacturing, he and wife Inga Carus, who started her career in air products and chemicals, formed CL Enterprises in 2010 and began creating new businesses – from agriculture to aviation to woodworking to real estate to consumer products to restaurants.
In addition to revv aviation at the airport in Sugar Grove, Limberger has plenty of plans to continue investing in the Aurora area, with several major projects you will be hearing about in the near future.
“For us, the best social program is when you can provide good, well-paying jobs for a community,” he said. “Don’t give people a donation, give them a paycheck.”
Limberger is adamant that, in order for a CL Enterprises business to be successful, it should not only turn a profit at some point and be fun to own and operate, it “has to do something for the greater good, for society, for a community.”
Which is why he did not hesitate when revv aviation’s Lieser asked about donating the plane and two pilots for this humanitarian flight.
“Nobody in the world believed there would be another war like this. It is a tragedy,” Limberger said. “So we do what we can do to show the world we care.”