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)
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 http://grimesfuneralchapels.com/obituaries/jetty-r-cook/1125/ .
(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.