As we all know, July 4 is the date of death for a number of noted American patriots, including, of course, founding fathers, Presidents, and long-time “frenemies” Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.
But, July 4, 2017 saw the passing of a less recognized but equally inspiring American patriot, William Gannett, the father of my Sig Ep fraternity brother at Lawrence University, Bris Gannett. William’s passing marks the “final wind- down” for the “Greatest Generation.” William was a modest man, yet a true American hero, risking his life to fly B-25 bombers in defense of our country, and indeed Western Civilization, during World War II. It’s thanks to William and others like him that folks like me have been able to spend our lives in a world dominated by the values of Western Democracies.
Although he visited Bris on a number of occasions while we were at Lawrence together, unfortunately, I do not have a clear personal recollection of William. But, fortunately, our Sig Ep brother Russ “Biff Stoney” Birkos has filled the gap:
‘Bris Gannett called me yesterday to let me know that his father had passed away on July 4th. He was 94 and had been in ill health for the past several months. Those of you who remember Mr. Gannett on his many trips to the Sig Ep house, will recall that he was a gracious, friendly, giving, and generous man who, despite the age difference, became a close and genuine friend to many of us at the house. He was also, in my opinion, an American hero. Like so many of our fathers’ generation, he served proudly and courageously as a B-25 pilot in World War Two. Shortly after Barb and I married, we were stationed in central Massachusetts, just about an hour and a half from the Boston suburb of Hopedale, where the Gannetts made their home. Mr. Gannett and his wife, who preceded him in death a few years ago, treated Barb and me as if we were a close part of the family, having us as guests for hockey games, family dinners, and other events. They remain some of the most charming people Barb and I have ever known. I hope you might take a minute to drop “Gisr” a note and add your thoughts to mine on the life of a truly great man.”
Thanks for your service, Mr. Gannett! And for literally “making the world safe for democracy” and those of us who appreciate it. It goes without saying that in Bris (“The Gisr”) you and your wife left an outstanding legacy. Rest in peace, and thanks again for your service in war and the example of human kindness and caring about others that you set in peace.
Gisr, my friend, although it’s been a while now, Cathy’s and my thoughts are with you as you reflect upon your father and his heroic and truly meaningful life. And, thanks, Biff, for passing this along.
With best wishes,
Here’s a correction from “The Gisr” himself:
“I will have to correct one item. Dad actually flew a P-38 Lightning in WWII as part of the 34th Photo Recon Squadron (“The Flying Monkeys”)
in the Europe theater until the end of the war. His aircraft was outfitted with cameras instead of guns. They were fast and could out fly anything
the Germans had. He was involved with much of the D-Day mapping . But like many of those who were in WWII, Dad rarely talked about
his experiences. But he was a true American hero, for sure !!”
Even more impressive and courageous!