Today, I would like to write about another family hero who I am very proud of … my brother-in-law, Joseph Edward Elick (who we affectionately called Juz). He was born in Wilkes-Barre on Feb. 17, 1925, to township residents Joseph and Helen Weiss Elick. He served our country during WWII as a B-17 navigator in the 398th Bomb Group, 602nd Bombardment Squadron. (His job as navigator was to direct the plane’s flight from departure to destination and return. He had to know the exact position of the plane at all times.)
Joe was eager to do his patriotic duty to serve his country by enlisting in the U.S. Army Air Corps on Feb. 6, 1943, several months prior to graduating from Wilkes-Barre Twp. High School. He served his country very well at a young age!
The following are excerpts as related by Walter Boland, the waist gunner on the B-17 he and Joe were both on, who wrote how their unit fought the enemy on two of their bombing missions over Germany:
“On July 18, 1944, our crew joined the 398th Bomb Group at Nuthumpsted, England. Our first mission on July 29 was to bomb the Leuna Oil Refinery, just south of Merseburg, Germany. Plane after plane were being shot down by German artillery on the ground and in the air. (Luckily, their plane was not one of them.) After the crew flew 15 more missions targeting various German industrial sites, the crew members were sent to Southport, England, for a well-deserved rest and relaxation period.”
“On Oct. 28, 1944, our squadron’s mission target was Munster, Germany, to bomb the Marshalling Yards. Our B-17 bomber carried six 500 general purpose bombs and six 500 pound incendiaries. Flak was the most accurate we have ever seen. Our plane received 120 flak holes. Two engines were also shot out. The pilot made a crash landing when we arrived back at our England home base with two flat tires. Five of our squadron planes were also lost. Three planes were either shot down or forced down. At the time, there was heavy fog cover over the target. The Mickey operator and tail gunner were slightly hit by the flak.” (A “Mickey” operator used special airborne radar enabling him to see the ground through clouds.)
After performing several more successful bombing missions over Germany and Germany’s subsequent surrender on May 7, 1945, 1st Lt. Elick and the crew members received orders to report to the Southampton, England seaport where they boarded a troopship headed for the states, followed by receiving their distinguished honorable discharges from the Army Air Force.
Joe was the recipient of the Air Medal, among others, by Commanding General Ira Clarence Eaker of the Eighth Air Force for his participation in sustained combat operations over enemy occupied continental Europe. The citation which accompanied the award read: “The courage, coolness and skill deployed by this officer upon these occasions reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United States.”
When Joe returned to the township after the war was over, he married his sweetheart, Boneda Coleman, who he met in Lincoln, Nebraska, while at boot camp. They were married at the Luzerne County Courthouse in 1945. Joe took advantage of the GI Bill and graduated from Bucknell University in 1949 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering. Several years later, he and his family, wife, Boneda; sons David and Steven, and daughter, Melanie, moved to Godfrey, Illinois, where he was employed by Olin-Winchester Western as a design engineer until he retired. Many of the buildings at Olin have his personal stamp of creation.
Joe was very well-known within his community as the “Godfrey Plant Man” for his many exquisite house plants that he harvested in his backyard which he sold and generously donated thousands of dollars over the years to the Faith Lutheran Auxiliary League in Godfrey. Joe was always a giver … not a taker his entire life.
Joe and Boneda shared 44 years together when she passed away in 2003. Joe died unexpectedly at the age of 89 from complications of a stroke on Sept. 2, 2014.
He will be honored by my family with a “Hometown Hero” banner, a project honoring deceased and living heroes who served our country during peace and war, which is currently being sponsored by the township American Legion Post 815. (The “Hero” banners will be hung on township utility poles from Memorial Day to Veterans Day.) I am very proud of all my brother-in-law’s many accomplishments during his life, and most especially, for his patriotic desire to serve his country at a very young age.
As an added note: While our veterans from World War II have been dwindling every year, their heroism should never be forgotten. We should be forever thankful to all servicemen and servicewomen for their exemplary bravery, service and supreme dedication to our country at a time when they were crucially needed to preserve our American way of life. It is really unfathomable to even think of all the dangers these warriors had faced and endured every single day. They should serve as a constant reminder of all the sacrifices that they (and also their families) have unselfishly made so that we could live and enjoy all the freedoms we enjoy today and for our right to be respected as an American. They, without any doubt, truly are our “HEROES.”
Spaghetti dinner to benefit township police officer
Members of the Wilkes-Barre Twp. Volunteer Fire Department will sponsor a spaghetti/meatball dinner on Sunday, Feb. 28, from noon until they run out of dinners to help township part-time police officer Brian Bouton, who has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma as well as Homophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) cancer. Bouton will be undergoing chemotherapy treatments for eight months. He is the sole provider for his wife, Stacey, and their four children.
The take-out dinner will consist of spaghetti, meatballs, bread, salad and dessert for a donation of $10. All the proceeds from the dinner will benefit Bouton and his family.
A basket raffle will also be held in conjunction with the dinner. Tickets can be obtained from Fire Chief Richard Hart at the township fire house, Watson Street, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday, and Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., or by contacting Hart at 570-899-5320.
If you would like to help toward Bouton’s medical costs, send your donation to “Fidelity Bank, Brian Bouton Cancer Fight, 400 S. Main Ave., Scranton, PA 18504.”
Our Lady of Hope news
Weekday Masses are celebrated at 8 a.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays. Weekend Masses are on Saturdays at 4 p.m. and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. for the duration of the pandemic.
The parish office hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. during the pandemic.
St. Mary B.C. Church news
St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church will hold a take-out holupki (pigs-in-the-blanket) sale on Saturday, Feb. 6, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the parish social hall, 522 Madison St., Wilkes-Barre. The holupki will be available in pre-packaged quantities of three holupki for $7.50 and six for $15. All holupki must be pre-ordered. To place your order, call 570-822-6028 or 570-931-1894 no later than 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 3.