AFEES In Memoriam/Obituaries (Airmen)

Please see below for obituaries for Ralph K. Patton, Richard “Dick” Mansfield Smith, Milton Moen, Stanley E. Stepnitz, Jetty R. Cook, Rev. James Edwin Armstrong, and Raymond (Ray) John Frederick Sherk.  As the webmaster indexes the AFEES newsletters, he is adding links to all the obituaries that were published.  See below.

Ralph K. Patton

Aug. 16, 1920 – Jan. 31, 2011

By Linda Wilson Fuoco, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Wilkinsburg native Ralph K. Patton had successfully bombed a German fighter base on his ninth mission on Jan. 5, 1944, as a B-17 pilot in World War II when he was shot down over France.

Mr. Patton and surviving members of his crew parachuted into the Brittany peninsula. They were rescued and sheltered for the next 2 1/2 months by members of the French resistance who helped them evade capture by the Nazis. The British Military Intelligence Service picked up Mr. Patton and other downed fliers and took them to England.

Mr. Patton made multiple trips to France to find and thank the people who had helped him. It became his mission to make sure the world never forgot their bravery.

In 1964, he became co-founder of Air Forces Escape and Evasion Society. Members were American and Canadian air forces who “had evaded capture behind enemy lines for 30 days or more.”

The organization recognizes people who helped pilots and their crew who were shot down in France, Belgium and Holland.

Mr. Patton died Jan. 31 at his home in Bethesda, Md., from complications of Parkinson’s disease. He was 90.

Mr. Patton graduated from Wilkinsburg High School in 1938. He worked at Pittsburgh Coal Co. while taking accounting classes at night at the University of Pittsburgh. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1942 and served as a B-17 pilot with the 331st Squadron of the 94th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force stationed in southern England.

He returned to the United States in April 1944 and traveled to Memphis, Tenn., where a woman he had dated while in high school, Bette Lou Hopkins, was serving in the women’s naval reserve WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). On May 1, 1944, the couple married, beginning their 66 years together. Mr. Patton returned to civilian life in October 1945 as a manager for Consolidation Coal Co. in Pittsburgh.

The couple had two children and moved with his jobs to Buffalo and Detroit before moving to Mt. Lebanon in 1976. He retired in April 1983 as vice president of eastern sales for Consolidation Coal, which was then a subsidiary of the DuPont Co. In 2001, the couple moved to Maryland to be close to their son and his family.

Mr. Patton was president of AFEES for 27 years until 1991, when he became chairman of the board.

The society now has more than 680 members.

Richard “Dick” Mansfield Smith Obituary

Richard “Dick” Mansfield Smith was born September 8, 1921 in Esmond, ND, near Leeds, to Mansfield Sherman and Mary Lucille (Hawkland) Smith. He passed away on Friday, March 29, 2013 at St. Francis Nursing Home in Breckenridge, MN. Visitation will be Friday, April 5 from 4-7 pm at St. John’s Catholic Church with a prayer service at 7 pm. A Catholic funeral will be celebrated at 2:30 pm on Saturday, April 6, at St. John’s Catholic Church in Wahpeton. Interment will be at St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery, Breckenridge, MN at a later date. Attendees are encouraged to wear bright colors rather than customary black. In lieu of flowers or memorials, the family asks well-wishers to donate to a charity of their choosing or to assist someone in need.

Richard’s family moved several times before settling in Breckenridge, MN in 1937, where Richard played football, baseball and basketball, graduating in 1939. He was a member of the 1939 Cowboy’s basketball team which played in the Minnesota state tournament. He enrolled at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, IN that fall, where he was a member of the football and baseball teams. Richard enlisted in the Army Air Corps at the onset of World War II in December 1941. He captained a B-17 Bomber, “Destiny’s Tot”, completing 13 missions before his plane was shot down over France in December 1943. He escaped the damaged plane via parachute and the Nazis via the French Resistance to return to Allied territory by January 1944.
Richard served as a pilot for Eastern Airlines in New York City following his return to the US. He resumed his studies at Notre Dame after one year and graduated in 1947, the same year he married Patricia Evelyn Corcoran. They began married life in Doran, MN, where their first son was born, then settled in Campbell, MN, where two more children completed the family. Richard worked for his father’s company, the Kent-Doran Grain Co., while Patricia managed the household. Patricia passed away in a tragic car accident in 1953. Richard remarried in 1955 to Margaret D. Jones of Fargo, ND. He continued to work for and eventually owned the Kent-Doran Grain Co., which he sold in 1974.

Though officially retired, Richard lived a full life, dedicating himself to the Air Forces Escape and Evasion Society, of which he served as president for nearly 20 years, and the Otter Tail Lake Property Owners’ Association, of which he also served as president. He maintained his pilot’s license for decades, getting out of countless scapes with his faithful Mooney plane.
Richard was a devout, lifelong Catholic and attended mass regularly. Summers were spent at the “dream house” he helped build on Otter Tail Lake, and winters were spent in Manzanillo, Mexico or Palm Desert, CA. Nurturing his sense of adventure, Richard brought his family on international expeditions to Canada, Mexico, France, England, Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, and Hong Kong. He was particularly honored to be received by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in 1969. Richard and Margaret defined the term “golden years” through their countless social engagements, dinner parties, and cocktail hours with friends old and young. In May of 2010, they moved year-round into the Touchmark, formerly Waterford, in Fargo, where they enjoyed making new friends and renewing old acquaintances.
Richard was preceded in death by his parents and wives Patricia and Margaret (d. 2010). He is succeeded by his sister Marilou (Smith) Johnson of Minneapolis, MN; three children Kevin M. (Barbara) Smith of Denver, CO, Marcia L. (Dean) Abernethy of Atlanta, GA, and Richard E. T. (Ann) Smith of Wahpeton, ND; nine grandchildren Kevin D. Abernethy of Atlanta, GA, Patrick M. (Erin) Abernethy of Atlanta, GA, Anne M. Abernethy of Tucson, AZ, Jonathan M. Smith of Phoenix, AZ, Lauren S. Smith of Denver, CO, Kelly C. Smith of Denver, CO, Kathleen S. Smith of Fargo, ND, Kierann E. (Smith) (Jason) Toth of Rhinebeck, NY, and Conor H. M. Smith of Fargo, ND; and one great-grandson William M. Abernethy of Atlanta, GA. He will be sorely missed by countless nieces, nephews, neighbors, friends, relatives, and the distillers of Johnny Walker blended scotch.

Milton Moen (97th BG)

Milton Moen was born in 1924 to Hilmer and Gurina Moen in Madison, MN.  He was baptized and confirmed at Borgund Lutheran Church.  Milton attended country school for eight years at District #29 near the family farm, followed by four years at Appleton High School graduating in 1942.  After graduation, he, along with his next older brother Harold, continued to run the family farm until Milton volunteered to join the US Army Air Corps in 1943.
Milton served honorably in the Army Air Corps from 1943 until after World War II ended in 1945. During that period, he served in Europe with the 15th Army Air Force as a tail gunner in a B-17.  In December 1944 on a bombing mission over Vienna, their aircraft was damaged from flak and the crew bailed out over northern Yugoslavia. Through the help of local partisans, he escaped capture by the Nazi forces and traveled east through the Russian lines and was repatriated to US Forces by the Russian Army from Bucharest, Romania. He was assigned to a new crew and flew missions until the war ended.
After the war, Milton returned to Madison and married Helen Sjolie on March 20, 1946 at First Lutheran Church in Madison.  To this union six children were born. His family was truly his pride and joy, encouraging all his children to be what they wanted to be.  He found a special joy with grandchildren and great grandchildren.  Their visits always brought a twinkle to his eye.
In 1946, he started the family farm, building it from scratch.  With his growing family, he took on many extra jobs over the years working for Lund Implement as a mechanic, for Ron Bergerson as a plumber’s helper, managing the local Renco Gas Company, and with farm building construction crews through the Great Plains Lumber Company. In retirement from farming, gardening became his hobby; providing fresh vegetables and apples for his family and many others in the Madison community.
He was a life-long member of Borgund Lutheran Church involved in many aspects of maintaining the church property and cemetery. He was a life member of the US Air Force Escape and Evasion Society, the American Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.
Milton is survived by his children Dennis (Nancy) Moen of Aiken, SC; Myron (Carol) Moen of Park Rapids, MN; Charlotte (Skip) Zielin of Fergus Falls, MN; Richard (Kathy) Moen of Alexandria, MN; Valerie (Bob) Cooke of Eagan, MN; Victor (Audrey) Moen of La Prairie, MN; 14 grandchildren; 22 great grandchildren; and one sister, Doris Kuehl of St Paul, MN and sister-in-law Minerva Moen of Madison, MN.
He was preceded in death by his wife Helen and his parents Hilmer and Gurina Moen and sisters Mildred Vaala, Gladys Rinehart, Hedvig Hegre, and Marcella Lundgren, brothers Harry, Joel, Selfred, Julien (in infancy), and Harold.
Today, another Veteran died.
Stanley E. Stepnitz
Stanley E. Stepnitz, age 93, of Decatur, MI passed away Wed. Aug. 26, 2015 in White Oaks Assisted Living in Lawton. Stanley was born April 4, 1922 in Detroit, MI. the son of Albert & Myrtle (Bark) Stepnitz. He received a Bachelors of Science degree from Michigan State University in Chemical Engineering. He was a pilot in the US Army Air Corps in WWII & was in the DC Air National Guard for several years retiring as a LT. Col. He was employed by the Federal Government as a manpower validation specialist. He was a member of VFW Celery City Post # 6248 in Decatur, American Legion in Clinton, Maryland, 9th Air Force Assoc. & Masonic Lodge in Upper Marlboro, MD. Survivors include a daughter Marcia (George) Clements of Decatur & a brother Claire Stepnitz of New Hampshire & several nieces & nephews. He was preceded in death by his wife Inez, parents, sister Eleanor Vliek & two brothers Duane Stepnitz & Don Stepnitz. Cremation has taken place. Graveside Services will be held 11am Fri. Sept. 4th in Lakeside Cemetery Decatur with Rev. Will Christians officiating. Military rites conducted by VWF Celery City Post # 6248 & Am. Legion Post # 309 of Decatur. Memorials may be made to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan. Arrangements by Newell Funeral Home Decatur.
Jetty R. Cook

Jetty R. Cook, Lt. Col. (Ret), USAF, age 91 of Hunt, passed away Tuesday, September 6, 2016 in Kerrville.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Roy C. and Lollie Cook of Big Spring, TX; brothers, Curtis Cook of Owasso, OK and Alvis Cook of Hemet, CA; sisters, Francine Cambell of Hobbs, NM, Lucille Hopper of Big Spring, TX and Myrtle Winkler of Long Beach, CA; and son, Dale Cook of Birmingham, AL.

He is survived by wife, Wanda Cook of Hunt, TX; son, Charles (Vera) Cook of Roberta, GA; daughter, Susan (Jim) Tallas of Sugarland, TX; 7 grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; and sister, Beatrice Crum of Marietta, GA.

Jetty Cook was born on September 29, 1924 in Coahoma, TX. His childhood years were spent in Big Spring, TX where he was in the class of 1943 of Spring High School. He entered the U.S. Army Air Corps and was called to active duty in March of 1943. He served in the European Theater of Operation during World War II on a B-17 crew. On July 20, 1944, his plane was shot down and crashed in Belgium. He was able to parachute to safety and evaded capture by the Germans with the help of the Belgian Resistance with whom he established a life-long relationship. He was freed when Belgium was liberated by U.S. Forces.

He received a direct commission of 2nd Lieutenant during the Korean War in 1952 and served in various command and staff positions until his retirement in 1975 for a total length of service of 33 years.

He served overseas tours of duty in Italy, Panama, Saudi Arabia, Germany and Spain. At the time of his retirement in 1975 he was a Squadron Commander at Torrejon AB, Spain (Madrid, Spain).

His military decorations include the Purple Heart and the Air Medal (w/1 Oak Leaf Cluster), plus numerous others, including the NASA Public Service Medal.

After retiring from the military he was hired by the Boeing Company as its Logistics Manager, Zaragoza Air Base, Spain. In early 1978 he was transferred to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida as Boeing’s Project Manager to provide logistical support to KSC Institutional and Space Shuttle Operations.

After the Challenger Space Shuttle Accident he transferred to Pan Am Services Company as Support Services Manager at the National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, where he worked until his retirement in 1988.

In 1988 he and his wife retired to the Hill Country of Texas.

Lt. Col. Cook was a member of the Air Forces Escape & Evasion Society, the Air Force Association, and 92nd Bomb Group Association.

Graveside services will be held at 10:15 AM, Friday, September 9, 2016 at Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery, San Antonio, TX, officiated by Rev. Bill Bischoff.

A link to the obituary and the funeral chapel are to be found at .

 Rev. James Edwin Armstrong
On November 3, 2016, the Reverend James Edwin Armstrong passed into God’s eternal kingdom at the age of 94. Jim was a man of God who loved serving his fellow man in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jim was born in Bradenton, FL Aug. 3, 1922. He attended Georgia Tech before enlisting in the US Army Air Corps in 1942. In the 8th Air Force, Jim served as a B17 bomber pilot during WWII and earned the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. After the war Jim attended the University of Florida and in 1948 graduated with a BS degree. In Bradenton, he and his wife Nita were faithful members of First Presbyterian Church until 1961, when Jim answered God’s call to full time ministry. The couple, along with their three children, moved to Decatur, GA where Jim earned his Master of Divinity degree from Columbia Theological Seminary. Jim then pastored McCarter Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC, followed by a pastorate at Friendship Presbyterian Church in Thomasville, GA. Ultimately, he founded New Covenant Church in Thomasville where he was privileged to serve until his retirement in 1984. For the past five years, Jim and Nita have resided in Lawrenceville, GA and have enjoyed fellowship at Grace Bible Church.
Jim was the son of Leslie Robert Armstrong and Laura Armstrong Kellett of Bradenton.
He was predeceased by his brother Jack Leslie Armstrong (Gladys) and sister Lou Ellen Haggard (Roy). Jim is survived by his wife of 68 years, Juanita DesChamps Armstrong, daughter Alice Juanita Armstrong (Lawrence), son James Leslie Armstrong (Mary Alice), and daughter Jean Marie Smith (Kenneth). Surviving grandchildren are Sherrie Alice Armstrong, David Lawrence Armstrong, James Matthew Armstrong, Anna Beth Horsley (Adam), Daniel DesChamps Armstrong (Anna), Erin Marie Smith, and Leah Michelle Smith. Jim adored his four great grandchildren Axel, Isaiah, Joseph, and Eli. He also has many beloved nieces and nephews.
Visitation will be at Allen & Allen Funeral Home, Thomasville, 6:00-8:00 pm Sat., Nov. 5. Celebration of Life service will be at New Covenant Church on Sun., Nov. 6, 2:30 pm.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be sent to ministries close to Jim’s heart: IAM, Inc., PO Box 2122, Moultrie, GA 31776, or Faithful Is He, PO Box 673, Thomasville, GA 31799, or New Covenant Church. Family and friends may sign the online register
Raymond  (Ray) John Frederick Sherk
Raymond John Frederick Sherk
(March 20, 1922 – December 2, 2016)  From Globe and Mail, Dec. 10, 2016

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Raymond Sherk on December 2, 2016 at the North York General Hospital in Toronto, ON. He died peacefully at 94 years of age, with his dedicated and loving wife, Heather; and beloved daughter, Alison by his side.Ray was born March 20, 1922 in Waterford, ON to parents, Claude and Julia Sherk. He grew up in Stevensville, ON with brothers, Donald, James and Benjamin, and spoke fondly of their adventures swimming and canoeing in Black Creek. As a baby, and again at the age of 9, Ray lived with his Uncle Harvey and Aunt Corena Gampp, and their daughter, Ruth on a bee farm in Baden, ON where he was loved like a son and brother.

Ray was survived by his wife of 46 years, Heather, whom he loved and cared for deeply. They shared many wonderful times together, whether salmon fishing, travelling, enjoying time with friends, or flying in his seaplane. He was father to daughters, Veronica and Alison; and loving grandfather to Frédéric, Seraphina and Geneviève, whom he always looked forward to visiting in Calgary, AB with parents, Alison and Simon Cheung-Bret. He was also survived by daughters, Marian and Joanne; their children and grandchildren; and predeceased by daughter, Jennifer.

An adventurer at heart, Ray joined the Canadian Army in May 1939, transferred to the RCAF in September 1940, earning his Wings in April 1941. He went overseas a month later, completed his operational training and then joined the 129 RAF (Mysore) Squadron at Tangmere in August 1941 as a Sergeant. Ray flew with this Squadron for 9 months until he was transferred to the Desert Air Force in April 1942 as a Pilot Officer. He flew Hurricanes and Spitfires in 73, 74 and 601 RAF Squadrons in the Middle East.

On September 29, 1942, while on a mission to intercept an ammunition train at an important rail junction known as ‘Charring Cross’ near Mersa Matruh, Ray made a forced landing over Northern Africa. He was captured the next day while attempting to walk home through the El Alamein front line. He was transferred to Italy, first PG75 Bari and then PG78 Sulmona where he was a POW for one year, and celebrated his 21st birthday in prison. With the capitulation of Italy in September 1943, Ray fled to the mountains with friend Don McLarty. They hid in a cave near the town of Roccacasale for several days before hiking through the Apennines disguised as shepherds. They came upon the Canadian Seaforth Highlanders 45 days later. It was during this escape that Ray met South African war correspondent Uys Krige, who later introduced Ray to Heather in 1968.

Ray returned to operations with the RCAF Squadron 401 in February 1944. On March 15, 1944, Ray’s Spitfire engine failed during a bomber escort mission over Northern France. He parachuted onto the Hawthorn Ridge, adjacent to the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial. With the help of nearby farmers, Ray was hidden in a haystack to evade German capture. He was sheltered by the French Resistance for 3 weeks, primarily in the village of Hébuterne, and then guided south by train. He was arrested in Amiens, but managed to slip away to catch a departing train. Ray walked the last 100 miles to the Spanish border, and found another guide to lead him over the Pyrenees. Once back in England, Ray sent a BBC radio message to his helpers: ‘The Sky is Blue’ signalling his safe return.

Ray was a founding member of the Royal Canadian Escaping Society, an organization dedicated to the recognition of the extreme efforts and risks taken by those families who assisted airmen escape or evade capture by the Germans during WWII. He felt eternally indebted to his Italian and French helpers, and he and Heather were honoured to host them in Canada over the years. He remained lifelong friends with his helpers and their families.

Following the war, Ray studied chemical engineering at the University of Toronto (Class of 5T2) and completed post-graduate studies in Commerce (Class of 5T7). He taught math and science at Vincent Massey Collegiate until recruited by Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in 1965 to teach finance. Ray was awarded title of Professor Emeritus in 2001 in recognition of his outstanding academic contributions. After his retirement, Ray continued working in real estate, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area.

Ray had an entrepreneurial spirit, starting a glass-blowing business after his second year of engineering in 1949. He also purchased and then later sold a successful business selling chemicals to the pulp and paper industry. While on sabbatical from Ryerson, Ray co-founded the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) in 1971.

Ray had a true passion for flying, and continued doing so after the war in the 400 Reserve Squadron. He also worked as a pilot and flight instructor at the Toronto Island Airport in the 1960s during his summer breaks from teaching, and flew 14 CNE Air Shows, some with demonstrations using live ammunition. Ray flew his yellow seaplane C-FIXD until 91 years of age, and float-trained many pilots, including his daughter, Alison. Ray was an avid fisherman and hunter, and combined these passions with flying on numerous trips to Northern Ontario and Nunavik. Ray was a proud member of the St. Catharines Flying Club.

Ray enjoyed remarkable good health, and at 79 years of age with daughter, Alison, was the only WWII veteran to complete ‘The Freedom Trail’ in 2001, a 3-day 60 km hike over the Majella Mountain in Italy, retracing the historic path taken by escaping Allied prisoners. Ray wore his WWII army issued boots for the hike, which fascinated his Italian hosts.

Ray appreciated and enjoyed the simple pleasures in life, and had a generous nature, always helping others in need. He was a modest man with many interesting and unique life experiences, and only when prompted would quietly share his stories with others. Amongst his experiences, Ray enjoyed high tea with the Queen of England, and a Heineken with Prince Bernard of the Netherlands in 1969.

Ray was a mentor and role model, and his remarkable life was an inspiration to those who were privileged to know him. His family will be hosting a memorial in the New Year. In honour of his generous spirit and his joy in supporting and encouraging youth, please consider a donation to the Canadian Red Cross, or the Ontario Branch of the Air Cadet League of Canada in lieu of flowers.

”Per Ardua ad Astra”

To view the Index to Obituaries of Airmen in the AFEES Newsletter, click here.

One thought on “AFEES In Memoriam/Obituaries (Airmen)

  1. Please provide me with the obituary for Hayward Claude Spinks. He did a forced landing near Paris during WWII. My elderly French friend, Prof. Roger Folliot, was a teenager in the French resistance and rescued Hayward Spinks. His account is on the Association des Sauveteurs d’Aviateurs Allies website. I am trying to locate any descendants of Hayward Spinks at the request of Prof. Folliot who would like to share memorabilia with them.

    Response of Webmaster:
    Do you know when and where he died? And was he a member of AFEES? The index to the AFEES newsletters has not been completed but if his date of death is available and if he was a member of AFEES, there might be an obituary about him that appeared in the AFEES newsletter not long after he died.

    Mr. Knopp replied: No, I didn’t see your posted message on the AFEES website. So, I appreciate your email to me. Heyward Claude Spinks died on 26 Jan. 1990, at the Veterans Hospital in Charleston, South Carolina. I don’t know if he was a member of the AFEES. I have also learned that he also had a sister who died on 18 Sept. 1990 but I’m not sure where. Maybe Atlanta, GA. Her name was Janet Spinks Martin. It seems Heyward was married but it didn’t last. I guess the question is whether or not his sister had children and, if so, who they are and where they live.
    Thanks for you interest.

    The Webmaster replied: 1. The AFEES membership list of 1991 at (pg. 8) still listed him at P.O. Box 844, Beaufort, So. Carolina 29901 as “Deceased AFEES”.

    2. The Spring 1990 AFEES newsletter at on pg. 2 contains an “In Memoriam” about him but with no information on his postwar life other than that at that time was survived by a sister and a mother and that he had served as Secretary Treasurer of AFEES for many years. It gave his date of death as Jan. 26, 1990. It also says he is buried at the National Cemetery in Beaufort, So. Carolina. I checked the rest of the Spring issue and the Summer issue of the AFEES newsletter but there was nothing further on Mr. Spinks.

    3. I checked the WhitePages for the family name at and there are several people with that family name still living in Beaufort and even more who used to live there.

    4. FindAGrave for the National Cemetery at Beaufort at lists a Heyward O. Spinks with a photo of the headstone and a date of death of Jan. 27, 1990. Despite the differences in middle initial and day of death, it seems likely this is the same person.

    5. You might try contacting the Visitor Center at Beaufort, Visitors Center Info 713 Craven ST
    Beaufort, SC 29902
    Phone: (843) 525-8500

    6. The Beaufort public library ( might have files of obituaries or at least back issues of the local newspaper which they would be willing to search for you for Mr. Spinks obituary since you have the date of death.

    7. Or try an online newspaper archive at that offers a free seven-day introductory offer.

    Mr. Knopp replied:

    Dear Bruce Bolinger,

    What terrific support you have provided! I very much appreciate your help and will pursue the various leads you have provided. Will let you know the results.

    All the best,

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