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News | Sept. 26, 2016

Original artwork forever links family with NORAD

By Michael Kucharek NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs

Many times, family members are linked by common bonds, such as DNA or history.  Sometimes the links are recognizable; sometimes they are not.  Yet connections – despite time – have a way of resurfacing. 

And so it was for one Maryland family and the North American Aerospace Defense Command team, both of whom were honored recently to touch upon its own beginnings during an intimate event held here at the NORAD and U.S. Northern Command headquarters on Sept. 23, 2016.

Ms. Mona Rowe, a former Associate Director for the National Institute of Health, brought a piece of NORAD history “home” during that ceremony, donating her father’s original hand-drawn artwork of the NORAD emblem and entrusting it for safe keeping for years to come to her extended NORAD family.

“Thank you for being so trustworthy; knowing that we are going to take care of your Dad.  Because he is family, you are family,” said Gen. Robinson.  “Thank you for honoring all of us with your presence today, taking the time out of your busy life and your schedule to come and share this with us.”

When asked what motivated her at this time to part with a family heirloom that had hung prominently for years in her home, it was quite clear Rowe knew exactly what she wanted to do, and why and when to do it.

“I was at home when I heard the announcement that General Lori Robinson was named commander, and that she (is) the highest ranking woman military combat commander,” the mother of two said.  “And then they said she was the commander of NORAD. And I said, ‘NORAD, really?’  

“And I thought, my father was very supportive of women and women’s rights.  He was always supportive of me and making sure I could accomplish anything I wanted to do.  So I thought, what a fitting tribute … to donate the artwork to General Robinson so that she could take care of it and NORAD could take care of it.” 

Smartly dressed in black slacks, matched with a flecked black and gray blazer, Rowe proudly adorned the starkly visible NORAD patch, based on her father’s original design, above her heart.  The patch, blazon in blue and yellow, was given to her by NORAD and USNORTHCOM Commander Lori Robinson.

“This is going to be especially meaningful to me … General Robinson was wearing it when I met with her today and I asked about it,” Rowe said.  “And as we were leaving the ceremony, she took it off and she said that she gave it to me so that I could keep it with me at all times.  And this is actually special, come to think of it, because I have never been able to keep a part of my father with me at all times.”

Mr. Paul Jaffe, Rowe’s father, immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1938 to escape Nazi tyranny.  A Polish refugee in the 1930s, an Army Air Forces veteran of World War II, and an Air Force civilian, Jaffe was a talented artist and designer, serving at Air Defense Command, Continental Air Defense Command, and then NORAD from 1951 to 1960, mainly in the graphics branch. 

In addition to designing the NORAD emblem, Jaffe illustrated many safety publications and designed the Naval Forces CONAD emblem.

As an accomplished artist, inventor and jack-of-all-trades, Jaffe achieved a lot in life, judging by anyone’s standards.  Rowe said Jaffe was an extraordinarily smart man, focused on creativity to help solve problems, incorporating heraldry in much of his artwork.  

In a Nov. 30, 1958 article in The Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph, the newspaper noted some of Jaffe’s many successes included earning a Bachelor of Science degree in textile engineering, learning six languages, patenting some 17 products, designing covers for college publications, illustrating for magazines, and contributing to the Air Force Academy’s emblem design.  

Yet given all he did, in an autobiography he dictated before he died, he said, “My goal is to find peace of mind. My only regret is that I did not leave behind something of myself, something that showed originality, uniqueness and would be beneficial for years to come.”

When asked what she would tell her father today about his regret, Rowe said, “I think that you’re helping fulfill his need right now in that he is smiling down on us … Maybe I think he just wanted to make a mark on the world and say, ‘Yes, I existed.  I did this’.”  

“And so I think that was the regret.  And I just think that seeing what happened to his parents (during the Holocaust) and their demise, I think that he really wanted to leave something behind …” she said. 

Dr. Brian Laslie, NORAD and USNORTHCOM Deputy Command Historian, described the significance of the donation to the command, where it will hang in an as yet determined location in the building.

"The NORAD emblem is as recognizable to the public as any major sports team logo and we're overjoyed to have the original artwork back in the command," said Laslie.

When asked how she felt about donating the artwork that had hung in her home for many years, Rowe said she was feeling bittersweet but grateful for the chance to do something that brought it all full circle for her on behalf of her dad.

“I am just feeling very happy; and I thank you for letting me be part of the family, and now I feel good that my father is going to stay here with you,” Rowe said.