2017-03-09 / Columns

B-24 crash site visit has deep connection for Omena family

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KATHY MILLER of Omena is interviewed by reporter Karen Devine of KESQ in Palm Desert near where her uncle died in a crash at the end of World War II. 
— Photo by Pat Buys KATHY MILLER of Omena is interviewed by reporter Karen Devine of KESQ in Palm Desert near where her uncle died in a crash at the end of World War II. — Photo by Pat Buys An Omena couple made the TV news recently in the Palm Springs, Calif. area. As part of an almost sixweek road trip, Jim and Kathy Miller were in Palm Desert visiting her brother and sister-in-law, Frank and Deborah Kerrigan. Kathy had planned a very special outing as part of that visit.

The story involves Frank and Kathy’s uncle, who was on a military plane in 1945 with ten U.S. servicemen onboard when it crashed into the mountains above Thermal.

Nine were killed, including Corporal Frank B. Kerrigan, after whom Kathy’s brother was named. Kathy had learned about Project Remembrance, a volunteer group which, for the past 30 years, has helped families get information about loved ones lost in plane crashes, and take them to the site.

On Sunday, Feb. 19, more than a dozen people gathered to get instructions from G. Pat Macha of Project Remembrance for their three-mile round trip hike. The group included family members, Project Remembrance guides, and KESQ TV crew. Family members included Jim and Kathy, Frank and Deborah, Kathy’s nephews, Russell and Mike Will, also from Palm Desert, and her cousin Pat Kerrigan Buys and her husband, Marty, from Colorado.

They memorialized the site with flowers, American flags, and a plaque. The group hiked through rough and rocky terrain hoping to find pieces of the B24J Bomber that crashed into the lower Santa Rosa Mountains in 1945 carrying Corporal Kerrigan, a gunner on the plane. Kathy said that they didn’t tell family members until afterwards that one of the volunteers was also a paramedic.

After hiking for about a mile into the Santa Rosa Mountains, the family began to see quite a bit of debris from the plane crash. Large pieces of the plane, rusted and wedged into rocks, were there. They found pieces of landing gear and a propeller.

“The subject of his death was never known except that he crashed in a training flight out of March Air force base,” says Miller. The family had been told Corporal Kerrigan’s plane crashed in Carmel, Calif. It wasn’t until decades later they found out it was Thermal. With that bit of news, the family was able to find a front page article about the crash at the Indio library.

Kathy’s uncle was 19-years-old when he died, which was before she was born. Her father would talk about his younger brother. He was a great athlete and played football and basketball through high school in Saginaw, Mich. He had a full-ride scholarship to go to Syracuse for basketball, but he enlisted instead, as had his two older brothers.

Kathy said that it was a wonderful and moving experience, even more so than she had expected.

Jim and Kathy had driven from Omena to California to also spend time with friends in Coronado where they lived before moving here. From California, they headed cross-country to see their daughter and son-in-law and two granddaughters in Charleston, S.C. On their way back, they spent one night with Scott and Cathy Heiser in Cincinnati. What a road trip!

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Jeanne and Bob Grabowski are back from a wonderful seven week trip to California. They visited the Santa Maria and Paso Robles wine areas, wine tasting in the beautiful “Sideways” Wine Trail. For those of you who may think that Sideways implies a direction, it is the wineries featured in the movie “Sideways.” Then they went on to Napa County for several more days of doing the same.

The Grabowskis met up with Ed Hinkleman and Gayle Madison at their home in Petaluma for a wonderful dinner. Their final destination was to Fairfax, California to enjoy lots of quality time with their children and new granddaughter Haven. The record rain and flooding while they were there meant not too much “sun time.”

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Marian Electa Powell and her husband Mark drove from their home in Mukliteo, Wash., to Neskowin on the Oregon coast to celebrate her 60th birthday with her cousins Steve Hessel, also celebrating his birthday, Mike and Janet Hessel, and Mary Kay and Mark Rodman.

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Be sure to grab a copy of the March- April Midwest Living magazine which features pictures of Cherry Basket Farm. You might even see some familiar faces in the pictures.

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In their most recent newsletter, the Omena Presbyterian Church recognized Lynn and Nancy Enyart for their years of dedicated service in taking care of the church building, manse and grounds. They are retiring from this part of their volunteer services, and the Church is looking to fill a part time caretaker position, about 20 – 40 hours per week from April through September. For inquiries or a complete job description please email linda@omenachurch.org.

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Next Friday, March 17, marks the second annual O’Mena St. Patrick’s Day UN-parade. The non-paraders will meet at Knot Just a Bar – Omena for some Irish food and fun. The Unoffical, Un-organizers of the Un-parade will award prizes for the best St. Patrick’s Day outfits.

Now through Sunday, Martha’s Leelanau Table in Suttons Bay is featuring menus from Irish Traditional Cooking by Darina Allen as part of their Cookbook Series in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.

Next Tuesday, March 14, is known as Pi, or p, Day. The Greek letter p, pronounced “pi,” is used in mathematics to represent the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159. Day is celebrated on 3.14, officially beginning at 1:59 p.m.

You can celebrate Pi Day with Omena friends and neighbors at the potluck that evening at 6 p.m. at the Omena community room in the fire hall. Bring a dish to pass.

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Interestingly, mathematical genius Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879. Nathan Kalchik and Elizabeth Biederman share that birth date. Happy Birthday to them and to Dave Colling, Scott Walker, Karen Edgley, Sarah Van Pelt Murphy, and Mike Adelson.

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