24 January, 2007

My Father's Air Force
Yesterday, there was a good natured jab at the "Country Club" Air Force compared with the other services over at http://sondrak.com. Thought it right and proper to have y'all take a look at the Pacific Theatre in WWII and the island hopping bomber boys who served in that hell hole, never knowing whether or not they were going to return to the same landing strip from whence they took off.

Yes, I know, it was then known as the "Army Air Corps." Still inall, those boys busted their humps, sometimes flying 16/18 hours straight. Dad told me that the situations were sometimes so fluid that flying over any island, his squadron never knew if the intel was up to date...might be friendly, might not. They didn't always have fighter protection.

He was a good man. I miss him. In any case...enjoy!

Aaron Boggs Anthony, Captain, USAF, Ret.

Captain Aaron Boggs “Bob” Anthony, back row, second from left, passed away peacefully at his home in Green Valley, AZ on 21 September, 2005. He served with courage and dedication as a heavy bomber pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corp, 13th Air Force – 5th Heavy Bomber Group in the Pacific Theatre during WWII. Bob and his crew, members of the 31st Bomber Squadron, flew their Consolidated B-24 Liberator on 51 missions in and around the Philipine Islands.

After the war, Bob graduated with honors in Civil Engineering from Clemson University, South Carolina. He hired on with the Arizona Highway Department as head of a survey crew in south central Arizona, based in Bisbee, AZ. He then took on the job as physical plant engineer at Denver General Hospital. Bob closed out his professional career as Head of Engineering at St. Luke’s Hospital, Denver, CO.

He is remembered for his quiet and steadfast service within the Episcopal Church and the communities of Northwest Denver and Wheat Ridge.

Bob is survived by his wife, MaryAnne, of Green Valley, brother Fred (Theda), sister Sarah, son Stephen (Deborah) of Denver, CO, son John (Gail) of Center, CO, daughter Martha (James) Cannon of Evergreen, CO, three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, October 8th, 2005 at 1:00 p.m. at St. Francis-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church, Green Valley, AZ. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Odyssey Health Care, 1730 East River Road, Suite 107, Tucson, AZ, 85718 or Saint Andrew's Children's Clinic, 115 W Esperanza Blvd. Green Valley, AZ 85614.

Aaron Boggs Anthony

Born 23 May, 1917 - Died 21 September, 2005

(The following is adapted from the eulogy delivered on 8 October 2005, at St. Francis-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church, Green Valley AZ. Stephen M. Anthony, author and speaker.)

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be always acceptable in your sight, my Lord, my strength and my redeemer, Amen. In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God, the Holy Ghost, Amen…

“For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 38-39)

A gracious welcome to each and every one of you. Your presence here is a testament to Aaron Boggs Anthony, my father. The family has asked me to speak to you all, reflecting on his life, remembering his walk among us. Dad was a complex man, very private, a loving father, doting husband and steadfast friend. He was funny, with a gentle sense of humor and he was a man gifted with remarkable strength of character.

The world will remember Dad in a ten second sound bite, ten or fifteen lines in the obituary page. The world will remember him for a little time, and then the world will forget.

Our greater family however, holds a communal memory of Dad Anthony, a great bank filled with rich recollections, held close and cherished. We recall that grace, unique to a Confederate gentleman cut from the old cloth of Southern Culture…and his gentle, wonderfully quirky sense of humor. We can still hear that soft, southern Appalachian drawl when he laughed or spoke. And above all, we remember his sensibilities: the quiet strength and resolute convictions, the reasoning mind of an engineer. You see, beloved, Dad was our family “Rudder”, in the ancient sense of the word, providing direction for us; a sometimes group of flaky, emotion driven, right-brained artists. I know at times, that we were exasperating to his reasoning and logical sensibilities.

Then there are my own memories going back fifty-three years, some as fresh as an April morning in this soft Sonoran Desert. I could relate a long litany of these memories. But I shall not. However, these few are a small example of that half-century together.

There was the time when Dad and I shuttled my cousin Bill Simmon’s Porche Speedster convertible from Rifle to Denver. We were unable to make the heater work as we drove over the Continental Divide. It was bone chilling cold and I am certain that being unable to get the heater to work riled Dad’s engineering mind.

Oh, and then there was the time we were returning from Leadville over Loveland Pass in a blinding blizzard. Dad placed Mom in the back seat of the old red Ford station wagon with Martha and John. He stuck me in the front where I navigated by sticking my head out the passenger side window in order to see where the road led by seeking out the avalanche marker poles.

Then there were the wonderful summer days at Luring Pines gathering firewood, working on the cabins or making runs to the dump in Uncle Bob’s ancient, red truck. We kids would all pile in the back onto the flatbed and Dad or Uncle Bob or Uncle Mark would secure the stake sides and off we would go down Big Owl Road.

There are rich memories of doing remodel work on the old farmhouse on 35th Avenue; the laughter, the skills learned by continual practice and the sense of accomplishment working with Dad. Then there was the constant turning of the seasons in the remnants of the apple orchard next to that old farmhouse. The fragrant white springtime blossoms creating magic late May blizzards while we hoped and prayed that there would not be a late frost. (I know that Mom didn’t always join in those prayers as she was the one who would have to process the fruit.) Then we would rake the first culls that fell; small and hard and green. In late summer, our cousins and we kids picked the fallen apples, which were turned into spicy applesauce and rich, brown apple butter. Then there was autumn, raking the leaves, pruning, setting out the bird feeders in preparation for the long winter’s sleep.

However, there is a powerful, core memory that speaks directly to the kind of man Aaron Boggs Anthony was. It took place not too far from here in Bisbee, Arizona in 1953/1954. Dad worked for the Arizona Highway Department heading up a survey crew running lines, dragging chain and setting points for road construction in the rugged and mountainous high desert.

The first clear memory I have of Dad was a late, cold February morning in 1954, February 24th to be exact. I recall be awakened near sunrise. Dad gently picked me up. He smile was so huge that his whole face glowed. He held me high, then cradled me in his strong tanned arms. I remember him speaking these words: “Stevie boy, you have a brand new baby brother!” His soft southern drawl bubbled with unbounded joy.

Now beloved, Dad married my mom in June of 1953. When he chose to marry her, he made a conscious choice. He chose her to be his bride and, beloved, he chose me to be his son. He also chose to wed himself to this wacky family of artists, musicians and writers. Yet, for me, the most powerful choice was that he chose to take me as his son. And I knew for the first time in my young life that I had an real and true earthly father.

What prompted Dad Anthony to make those choices? I didn’t make the connection until, some fifty years later, we were sitting in the Arizona room having coffee. It was May, close to Dad’s birthday and I was asking Dad about his experiences during WWII in the Pacific Theatre. Dad was a captain and piloted a Consolidated B-24 Liberator. It came out in the conversation that he and his crew flew either forty-nine or fifty-one missions, well past the standard cutoff number of 25. He told the tale of one of his later missions, number thirty-nine or so, when he was driving the plane through heavy flak and a piece of shrapnel raged upward into the plane, bisecting the cockpit, right between he and his co-pilot. No hydraulic lines were cut, any electrical lines damaged, and most important, neither man was injured. Dad looked me in the eye and spoke. He told me that when he landed, he was a changed man. He knew for certain that God had spared him and everyday, from that day forward, was a gift from God.

My father made every attempt to live out that belief, and I know, in his own estimation, that he fell short more often than not.

I know too, that when we were youngsters, we thought that Dad’s love was not enough, nor was it what we needed. Yet I have come to realize that it was what we needed. For it was steadfast and solid love…a Father’s love. And the lessons he taught us in life’s classroom were subtle lessons taught by example. He quietly taught us the intangible basics of conservative, family based values. He taught us what it meant to provide humble service without thought of or desire for, recognition. He taught us the intrinsic value of hard work and a job well done. And he taught us of his love of God, largely unspoken, yet lived out daily in his actions.

In the end, although these earthly memories depart, there is a deeper truth that will never depart. For I am convinced that Dad knew, with a solid, uncompromised faith and assurance, that God loves him and that nothing could ever separate him from that love manifest in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

So, for a short span in eternal time, its time to say: “Goodbye, Dad.” I salute you and your life here on earth. May you continue to grow in the knowledge and love of God. Until we meet again, wait for us at the gate. We will all join you some Jubilee day.

1 comment:

  1. LLoyd7:09 PM

    That was one of the most moving and heart moving tributes I've ever read of a sons love, honor and respect for his father. A he sure gave you evry reason to say as much.

    He is from that bread of American that made this country what it has gone through up and until this present era.

    We so deperately need his spirit and kind in this age which we have seen in our present military. That has to be carried over into the civilians in this country.

    Thank You for writting about him Sven. It would be a good history lesson for many.