Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sharon Crowley Connor Holds Pacific Ocean Memorial for Her Father

Sharon Crowley Connor and her cousin Kathy Beazley spent several days on Yap Island
to remember SGT William Edward Crowley. He was a gunner on a B-24 during a
bombing run over Yap, KIA 15 July 1944, when his aircraft collided with another.


Sunrise on the day of the memorial
(also Sharon's birthday) Wednesday, September 20, 2006.

 

As posted September 20, 2006 09:34PM on http://www.missingaircrew.com

This will be very hard to write, I think, but let me try.

Last evening, to coincide with sunset, our boat set out into the open sea so I could go to my father. Not sure whether I was saying goodbye or hello.

It was my birthday, and the folks here at the Manta Ray Bay Hotel gave me a lei to wear in my hair. They gave us two woven baskets of flowers.

 


Both baskets were later used in the memorial to honor SGT William E. Crowley
and the other 21 men killed during that raid on Yap.

 

A Yapese woman whom we had only briefly met the night before brought another lei which Kathy wore. (The women reading this may understand how pretty we felt with flowers in our hair.)



Kathy and Sharon en route to the memorial location.

 

As the boat left the channel, I was overcome with a sense of rushing out to meet my handsome father, and I was going to be there soon. With Kathy and me were the hotel owner, his wife and daughter, a special staff member Peter, Mike the photographer, Pat and Cherie and the Anthony family. (The search for the Anthony plane which crashed offshore on August 10, 1944, was the primary focus of Pat’s second trip to Yap.)

When the approximate location was reached, we stopped and steadied ourselves against the rolling boat in preparation for our little ceremony. I’d never done anything like this, so I just let my heart lead me. When I had my letter in hand, I pushed the CD player button that let Jo Stafford begin singing “I’ll Be Seeing You” and read my letter to my father. I choked when I said his name, as I do every time. I nearly lost my voice again when I read that I was born September 20, for today WAS September 20. I was not the only one trying to keep my composure. I ended my words to my father, but it didn’t feel like goodbye. I told him I’d be seeing him, and by that time, Jo was singing “Fly the ocean in a silver plane…”

Kathy read all the names of the twenty-two crewmen who never returned to those who loved them. She put that list and photos of my father’s brothers and sister into one of the baskets. I put my letter and tribute I’d written to him on our AWON website into the other basket of flowers. As gently as could be, they bobbed along until they were out of sight. Flowers fell from the baskets a little at a time along the way. It still did not feel like goodbye.


Sharon sends the flower basket with her letter out to her dad at the approximate
location of the collision of the two aircraft which killed all 22 men.

 

Returning to the dock, even as salty sea spray prickled my skin, I felt peaceful. My father had fallen into the sea 62 long years ago and now his presence was being recognized. He was there, and he knew we were with him. I was happy. He knew I’d come a very long way to see him as soon as I’d learned where he was.

We were all directed to the Mnuw, the hotel’s ship/restaurant/bar, where the hotel had prepared for us a celebratory dinner of mangrove crab and taro with coconut sauce, and even a surprise birthday cake. Balloons with cute little Asian comic figures bounced from all the poles (what are those poles called?), while we heard the oft-played loop of musical offerings, including “I Feel Good” (JB) and “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” (AF).

Could I have asked for more? I FEEL GOOD.


Sharon and Kathy surrounded by Pat Ranfranz and his wife Cherie, who arranged the trip,
along with the family of the Anthony B-24 crew and others who joined in the memorial service.

 

To read more about her amazing trip to Yap (including her shiner and bandaged hands) go to Sharon’s blog on Pat Ranfranz’s Missing Aircrew website: Click Here!

To read about husband Roger's concurrent trip to Luxembourg, Click Here!

 

The pictures were provided by Sharon Crowley Connor with thanks,
in remembrance of SGT William Edward Crowley. To see his tribute: Click Here!