Friday, December 9, 2022


Meeting ‘Sully,’ my father’s B-24 navigator


By Chuck Woodbury

Originally published in October, 2011

A month ago, I whined here about how I was so hopelessly afflicted with wanderlust, and how frustrated I was I could not get away on a trip until January.

Well, I had barely finished writing that when a bargain airfare to the East coast showed up in my email. So, in short order, I was flying like a big ol’ bird to Boston, New York City and then Atlanta. I just returned.

It was two weeks of friends, family and sightseeing. On the other hand, it was two weeks of packing and unpacking luggage, too many unhealthy restaurant meals and of being herded through airports like cows in a stockyard. Ah, the simplicity of RV travel! Every flight was full, and the seats were inhumanely cramped. Flying is amazing for getting you somewhere fast. But it’s horrible for doing so with comfort unless you fly first class, which I don’t do because I prefer a few hours of discomfort over throwing away perfectly good money.

I HAD A WONDERFUL TIME visiting with my daughter Emily in New York City, where we explored town and enjoyed a few meals together. We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset. So beautiful! Later, on a gloriously warm evening, we relaxed on a park bench in Washington Square where we listened to street musicians and caught up with each other’s lives. It was about as good as it gets.

I had never before visited Ground Zero. It’s difficult to be reminded of the horror that occurred there on Sept. 11, 2001. How could people do that to other people?

With my ex-wife Rodica (still a good friend) and her family from Boston, Emily and I drove to Maine for lobster. Oh my, that sea creature is one very tasty crustacean!

Sully, my father’s B-24 navigator

Then, I was off to Atlanta, where my niece Dawna joined me for a few days. In our rented Ford Fusion (a disappointing vehicle) we blasted down the interstate to Savannah for Mint Julips, Southern dining and exploring its charming historic downtown. Then it was back to Atlanta to visit with my father’s Air Force crew member Hubert Sullins. “Sully” was only 20 when he was the navigator in the B-24 Liberator my father piloted on 35 bombing missions over Nazi Germany. What a joy it was to hear Sully’s stories; he’s the last living member of the crew. It’s sad seeing the World War II vets disappear.

Even though I am back home, I am ready to go again. I have two short “fly-drive” trips lined up between now and December. But what I am really dreaming about is heading off in January in my motorhome.

I think what’s happening to me these days is related to “empty nest syndrome.” My only child has moved away and my business runs smoothly no matter where I am. So I feel un-tethered. I believe I was born an explorer. “Why stick around one place when there are so many others to see?” That’s what I often ask myself. . .

I know from the letters I receive that many of you feel the same.

Update from 2016: Sully died a couple of years after my visit. The whole crew of nine is gone now (my father died in 2008).

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