From the Record Courier January 3, 2011
By Diane Smith | staff writer
A roofer from Atwater recently presented the township’s historical society with a box of photographs discarded by a homeowner.
That sent Ron Stanfield, president of the historical society, on a mission to find out all he could about the World War II hero pictured in several of the photographs, and to continue to get that information into the hands of his family.
“Whatever you do, don’t throw these things away,” he said. “Let somebody else have your heritage. Maybe 50 to 100 years from now, it will mean something to somebody else.”
Stanfield said local roofer Steve Hughes brought the box of photos to him. He said his employer, Nanett Knicely, said another employee found the photographs in a dumpster while doing a job in the Springfield township area.
Atwater is about 12 miles southeast of Ravenna.
The box contained photographs that appeared to be many decades old.
“The homeowner wanted them to throw it away,” he said. “But they couldn’t do that because of all the history that was in there.”
Stanfield and other volunteers spent hours reviewing more than 400 photographs. At the bottom of the box was a manila folder with a detailed account of all the missions of “the Falcon.” Also in the box was a hand written diary of the combat missions of Sgt. William Lowther, an engineer on the Falcon’s crew. The diary directs readers to forward it to his family in North Canton in case of an accident.
Stanfield found a website dealing with World War II history, and e-mailed the website’s creator in Australia.
“I almost had a feeling I was being guided in this process,” he said.
After doing some research, the Australian man returned to him with news. The Falcon broke down, so its crew was sent out on another plane, probably taking supplies to a crew from Australia. The plane was new and had never seen combat.
It was a decision that would prove fatal. The plane crashed on April 30, 1943, in New Guinea, killing all the men aboard.
The fuselage disintegrated, leaving a large crater in the ground, Stanfield learned. The tail portion separated from the rest of the plane, and was used by local residents as a hut, according to one account.
The Australian website creator directed Stanfield to a book titled “Into Darkness, a Pilot’s Journey Though Headhunter Territory.” The book was written by Edward T. Imparato, an army major who led a mission into New Guinea days after the crash to determine why this plane, and others like it, crashed in clear weather under no hostile action. Imparato and his crew faced cannibals and headhunters as they searched for remains of the plane. They determined that the B-24 bomber had a structural defect, information that saved thousands of lives.
Stanfield read the book and contacted 40 people named Lowther, searching in vain for one of the Army sergeant’s family members. Finally, he said, he was led to contact the historical society in North Canton.
The North Canton group was preparing for its Veterans Day celebration, and was preparing to dedicate a marker that had Lowther’s name on it.
Stanfield donated the contents of the box to the North Canton group, making a few copies for himself, and viewed the North Canton historical society’s information on Lowther. Lowther, 22, and his father, Gordon, were both employees of the Hoover plant in North Canton.
Lowther’s parents and brothers were presented with Lowther’s medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal and the Purple Heart.
Stanfield and volunteers even visited the home where Lowther’s parents had lived, but a neighbor told them the house had been sold several times since Gordon Lowther and his wife died.
Stanfield and the North Canton group are hoping members of the Lowther family will come forward to claim Sgt. Lowther’s belongings. The North Canton group has asked Stanfield to address the group at its meeting in March.
“There are supposed to be quite a few people there who knew him,” he said.