Fam­ily ar­rives in St. Lawrence to search sailor’s fate

The Southern Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - BY PAUL HERRIDGE pher­ridge@south­erngazette.ca

To Kathy Wynn for many years, her un­cle, Stan­ley Irvin Rooker, was just a pic­ture on the wall.

Her fa­ther’s brother was among the 110 crew­men lost when the Amer­i­can naval ship ‘USS Trux­tun’ sank in a win­ter storm at Cham­bers Cove off St. Lawrence Feb. 18, 1942, some 10 years be­fore his niece was born.

An­other ship, ‘ USS Pol­lux’, also sank near Lawn Point, with the loss of 93 lives, while a third ves­sel, ‘ USS Wilkes’, was able to be re­floated af­ter ground­ing.

The sur­vivors num­bered 185 - thanks in large part of the heroic ef­forts of peo­ple from the two com­mu­ni­ties.

Mrs. Wynn sug­gested St. Lawrence Mayor Wayde Rowsell and Cassie Brown’s book ‘ Stand­ing into Dan­ger’ doc­u­ment­ing the tragedy, have helped make her un­cle a real per­son. Her fa­ther had re­ceived the book a num­ber of years ago from a friend who had vis­ited the prov­ince to see his son, sta­tioned in the navy here at the time.

“It’s been such a bless­ing for us to be able to have all this in­for­ma­tion.”

She ex­plained it wasn’t al­ways that way. For many years, what ac­tu­ally hap­pened on that fate­ful morn­ing some 68 years ago, thou­sands of miles from Ok­la­homa, was mostly a mys­tery to the fam­ily.

“All they were given ba­si­cally was a tele­gram that said he was lost at sea, and we would try to get in­for­ma­tion pe­ri­od­i­cally through the years.”

Many relatives of both vic­tims and sur­vivors have vis­ited St. Lawrence to see the site of the dis­as­ter in re­cent years.

Mrs. Wynn, her fa­ther Glenn, 80, and brother, also Stan­ley af­ter his un­cle, are due to ar­rive in the com­mu­nity from Tut­tle, Ok­la­homa, a small town south­west of Ok­la­homa City, to­day.

The trip was ini­ti­ated as the re­sult of a mes­sage she posted on an In­ter­net web­site last Novem­ber. Mayor Rowsell saw the note and re­sponded.

“It’s been such a bless­ing for us to be able to have all this in­for­ma­tion.”

- Trux­tun vic­tim rel­a­tive Kathy Wynn

The plan­ning started not long af­ter­wards. “I said to my Dad, ‘ Would you like to go, if we will take you?’ and so he said ‘ yes.’”

Dur­ing the visit, Mr. Rowsell has ar­ranged a trip to Cham­bers Cove, as well as meet­ings with Gus Etchegary, who par­tic­i­pated in the res­cue ef­forts fol­low­ing the dis­as­ter, and Rick Ed­wards, son of Ena Far­rell-Ed­wards, who was a teenager at the time and pho­tographed the wreck­age.

The fam­ily has also or­ga­nized a meet­ing with a Trux­tun sur­vivor from Con­necti­cut, dur­ing a six-hour lay­over in New Jersey.

Mrs. Wynn noted the fam­ily re­cently sent a pic­ture of her un­cle to the Town of St. Lawrence that also in­cludes copies of the last let­ter he wrote home be­fore the ac­ci­dent, and the tele­gram her grand­fa­ther re­ceived.

Ok­la­homa Gover­nor Brad Henry’s of­fice has also agreed to grant ci­ta­tions to the Town of St. Lawrence and Mr. Etchegary, in recog­ni­tion of the ef­forts to help res­cue the sailors fol­low­ing the dis­as­ter.

Mrs. Wynn in­di­cated she hopes to have those with her when she ar­rives.

Ac­knowl­edg­ing the visit to Cham­bers Cove is likely to be an emo­tional one, she ad­mit­ted “ We are very much look­ing for­ward to it.”

Sib­lings Stan­ley Rooker and Kathy Wynn of Tut­tle, Ok­la­homa, are vis­it­ing St. Lawrence next week with their fa­ther Glenn, 80, whose brother, Stan­ley Irvin Rooker, was killed when the ‘USS Trux­tun’ sank off the com­mu­nity dur­ing a win­ter storm in Fe­bru­ary 1942.

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