2LT LaVern Herbert Becker
20th Air Force, 678 Bomb Squadron, 444 Bomb Group
KIA 7 December, 1944 near Mukden, Manchuria
Buried in Eastlawn Cemetery, Lake Orion, Michigan
The Father of Catherine Becker Light
-- Catherine Janet Becker Light --
My father, Vern Becker, was born on June 12, 1919, on the family farm in Lake Orion, Michigan. His family included mother Maude, father Herbert, and
big sister Donna. Although they lived on a farm, Vern and Donna had few farm chores; lessons and schooling were more important for them. They attended
Lake Orion schools, where a girl named Catherine Janet Carman was a classmate of Vern's. She remembers telling her mother that Vern "must be a
very nice boy, because he wears a clean white shirt every day." As a boy, Vern was always interested in airplanes, watching the sky and making
elaborate models of planes. Donna attended the University of Michigan and became a Social Worker. Vern followed her, intending to become an engineer.
While in Ann Arbor, he renewed his friendship with Catherine Janet who was attending Michigan State Normal College (now Eastern Michigan University)
about 10 miles away. She became a Home Economics teacher; they dated, and became engaged on December 7, 1941, as they were listening to accounts of
the attack on Pearl Harbor on the car radio. They married June 13, 1942, in a garden wedding at his parents' farm. I was born in October of 1943,
during a fierce snowstorm, in Battle Creek, Michigan, where Mother's parents had moved due to the job market. I was named for Mother, Catherine Janet
Becker. But she was always called Janet, and my father decided I would be Katy.
Vern enlisted in the Army Air Corps in March, 1943. He trained at several fields in Texas; Pratt, Kansas; Roswell, New Mexico; and Kearney, Nebraska,
becoming a Bombardier-Navigator. Mother and I were with him during part of this training, and then we returned to Michigan when he was sent overseas in
November of 1944. He was stationed "somewhere in India", as his letters home said. In the morning hours of December 7, his crew "borrowed" a B29
Super fortress, #42-6262, ironically called "Round Trip Ticket", and joined a bombing run on industrial buildings in Mukden, Manchuria. As they
returned to base, enemy fire brought the plane down, with no survivors. It was their first mission.
Back at home, Janet's Mother wrote in a Christmas card to her oldest son that "Some news came today that was hard to hear. Janet received telegram
that Vern has been missing over China since Dec. 7." That must have been a pretty bleak Christmas, as Janet's four brothers were all in the service as
well. Luckily, they all returned to their families.
After the war was over, Vern and his crew were declared KIA, and I was Katy no more - maybe too painful to hear that name, so I became Cathy. Most of
the crew rest in the Punchbowl in Honolulu, Hawaii. Mother said that Vern's mother could not bear to leave him "over there", so he was returned to Lake
Orion and buried next to his father, in a lovely sun-dappled cemetery. Each spring I love to visit him, plant flowers in the family urn (always red,
white, and blue), and make sure he has a brand new American flag flying.
Mother has never talked very much about him; she remarried in 1949. I graduated from Mother's alma mater, Eastern Michigan University, thanks to
our War Orphans benefits. I became an elementary teacher. I was the last of the Beckers so when I married my high school sweetheart, Jim Light, that
was it for the name. Or so I thought. We have three great children: Barbara is a science teacher, Jim Jr. fulfilled Vern's dream and became an
engineer, and Don is an attorney. Don has our only two grandbabies, and he delighted (and surprised!) me by naming his firstborn Henry Becker. Henry
looks remarkably like my father, and I'm sure Vern would just chuckle at his antics. Our fathers were such young men, with adult lives barely begun
when they left us. I like to think they are looking down at us and our families and smiling, and saying, as my father signed his letters to us, "Keep
your chin up, sweetheart."
Love you, Daddy
Always Your Katy