Damage on U.S. 29 from Hurricane Camille in Nelson County. 

Vietnam War-era helicopter pilots who flew search and recovery teams to find victims of Hurricane Camille in 1969, and Mennonite Disaster Service volunteers who helped Nelson County residents clean up and even rebuild their homes following the disaster, are the focus of a program on Critical Assistance Following Camille on Sunday, June 23, at 2 p.m. at the Nelson Center on U.S. 29 in Lovingston.

A Huey helicopter similar to those used during Camille will be displayed outside the Nelson Center. Visitors are welcome to climb into the ‘copter and speak to Nelson County residents who flew in the search-and-recovery effort following the storm.

The program will include a video featuring interviews with two of the pilots who flew during the response to Camille along with aerial and on-the-ground photos taken after the flood. Doug Nelms, one of the military pilots who flew the search teams to their assigned locations, is expected to be present at the event.

A panel of three Nelson residents — Michael Gamble, Kenneth Robertson and Phil Payne — who were members of the crews sent out to find victims, will offer their memories of the disaster that took 124 lives in the county and caused millions of dollars in damage. Bar Delk, who was also a member of the search teams, will moderate and present an overview of the search-and-recovery operation.

A second video featuring interviews with two of the Mennonites, Herschel and Jesse Bridge, who came to the county the day after the flood, and Daniel Kanagy, the son of Jonas Kanagy, the founder of the Mennonite Disaster Service, will also be shown.

This is the fourth in a series of Nelson County Historical Society programs marking the 50th anniversary of Hurricane Camille and its impact on the county. A Commemoration Ceremony will be held on Aug. 18 at 2 p.m. at Nelson County High School.

The Nelson Center is located at 8445 Thomas Nelson Highway in Lovingston. There is no charge for the program. Donations to help fund an enhanced Camille exhibit at Oakland Museum are welcome. See for more information.

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Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

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