a blog by Peter Stekel

FINAL FLIGHT is the story of four aviators lost in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks on November 18, 1942


Read more about FINAL FLIGHT here.

THIS article from the New York Times about a Coast Guard airplane lost in a Greenland glacier in 1942 is very interesting. I wish I had $1 million for my project!

September 2010


A Remembrance Of

Barbara Louise [Christian] Adams


Born: Dayton, OH

August 7, 1927 - May 19, 2010


Married Perry Adams:

 September 6, 1952



Marcia Wesley and Janet Jernigan

It has been my pleasure to meet some interesting, knowledgeable, and giving people during my research for Final Flight. Barbara and Perry Adams are two such people.

When I first contacted Barbara in May, 2008, both she and her husband, Perry, were excited to talk with me about William Gamber. Barbara had many warm memories about her older [by eight years] cousin, Bill, and his family from the summers she spent in Fayette, Ohio.

Barbara told me that her family lived in Dayton, Ohio but, "I went to Fayette in the summer. My parents would take me up and they would leave me for several weeks with my grandparents. They lived on the main street and Billís family lived on one of the side streets that went down by the high school." The two houses were close enough, "I could run from my grandparent's house to the main part of the town down to their house."

Bill Gamber's mother, Nell, was a telephone operator in Fayette.  When Barbara came to town she would run to the telephone in her grandparent's house. "They had the phone on the wall that you crank." Barbara knew that when she picked up the phone that Bill's mother would be the one who came on the line to say, "Number please!" Barbara recalled, "And I would say, 'Aunt Nell, Iím here! Is Elvira [Bill's younger sister] home?' Then she would say , 'Yes,' and I would say 'Iím going over there right now!' and then I would run all the way over."

Barbara told me, "It was a wonderful time of my life." She would walk down to the town's barber shop [where Bill's father worked] with her grandfather, a man "who had the most gorgeous white hair you ever saw. I would sit on his lap and comb his hair. It was great fun. He had a mustache which was white. He dressed, everyday, in a suit with a vest and a watch pocket." Outside, in front of the barber shop was a bench and her grandfather sat there. "Between him and his cronies and my Uncle Howard [Billís father], the news of everything that went on in town and the general area ended up being there."

For a young girl in the 1930s, "I loved that! It was so small town. So friendly. For a child of my age, and at that time, it was very special."

As for Bill Gamber, "He was very good looking and Iím sure he was popular with the girls. He was always somebody you hoped would hang around with you." Not only being with Bill, Barbara loved being with the whole Gamber family. "I loved going and being with them because they seemed so connected to their friends and to everybody in the town. I loved that. I thought that was pretty special."

* * *

It made me sad to hear many elements of this story because there are no longer any Gambers living in Fayette. Bill's older sister, Millie, had moved to Half Moon Bay [about an hour south of San Francisco] in 1941 to be with her husband, who was serving in the Navy. After the war, Bill's younger sister Elvira married and left town. With Bill missing, and presumed dead, it felt to me as if something in Fayette died as well. As if the town's very own best and brightest had been lost. And you don't recover from such a thing very easily or quickly, or even, at all.

* * *

I learned many things from Barbara Adams during our conversations. Most importantly, she helped to put me in the time and place where Bill Gamber, John Mortenson, Glenn Munn, and Leo Mustonen lived. "Since it was the 1930s, these small towns in the mid-west were wonderful. There was a lot of camaraderie. There was a lot of wholesome activity. A freedom too. I donít feel like weíre very free today. Our children: weíre certainly afraid for them. Weíre either concerned about them riding their bikes and getting hit by a car or something terrible like that.

"That wasnít the way it was in these small towns. There was freedom for those men, for those boys, to run around and peruse life to the fullest without handicaps.

"As I read about the other three men, I realized they all grew up in small towns in mid-America. Mid-west. I think it was a very wholesome period of time. There was no violence or guns and that sort of thing.

"It was a great time to be young and be alive! And think - all four of those men had similar backgrounds. I imagine they must have gotten along, all of them, pretty well."

Barbara, thank you for your memories, insights, and knowledge. And thank you for all your help while I was writing Final Flight.



Barbara Adams at the headstone for her cousin, 2nd Lt. William Gamber, at the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, CA. [Photo by Perry Adams]. The other names on the headstone are Cadets Ernest G. Munn, John M. Mortenson, and Leo M. Mustonen. All four perished when their Beech 18 AT-7 Navigator crashed on November 18, 1942 in Kings Canyon National Park. The portrait she holds is that of William Gamber taken in early 1942.



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