Monday, June 13, 2011

the parachute gown and a beautiful day.

i never met my grandfather. he was a pilot in ww11.
major richard w. laroque was reported missing in action. a severe shock to my family as they learned the news that he had not returned from the mission on april 10 of 1945.
the mission was over the eastern edge of the "rose pocket,"
near endorf germany; he was the mission leader. he disappeared while strafing the target and failed to answer when other members of the mission noted his absence and called over the radio.
my grandfather had 86 missions, 224:25 hours combat flying, and a total of 2049:55 hours in the air. decorated with the distinguinsted flying cross, air medal and 15 oak leaf clusters, and a purple heart, we are left full of pride.
with liberty, christianity, and common decency in question, my grandfather found it his calling to fight for theses principles. it was before pearl harbor that he enlisted. his brother was the oldest a member of the united states marine corps and he was the youngest in the united states army air corps. it is documented that he performed his duties well as a major in the united states air force.
although i did not know him, i will always think him with affection.

in march of 1945 he sent his parachute home for my grandmother, annabelle hartley to construct a christening gown for my father. in return, my grandmother sent him my dads baby booties to hang in the cockpit of his p-47 thunder bird. granddad couldn't be home for the christening but the gown severed as a reminder that he was there. the following month my grandmother learned that his plane was shot down. he nor his plane were ever found.

this gown is my connection to him.
my grandmother annabelle stored the gown in a mason jar. over the years various woman in our family have repaired the gown in places that time has allowed to deteriorate. i have spent the last month working on the gown. it is worn in the shoulders and on the hem... but beautiful none the less.

37 years after my dad wore the gown, my sister was christened and the following year i was. in between two of our cousins wore the parachute gown.

my dad passed away when i was 5. some of you may know that i named my kitchen table endeavor in his honor. i wanted the laroque name to be carried on. i don't know much about my dad. he didn't know much about his dad. one of the few things that bind us all together is this little tiny dress made from a 68 year old silk parachute.

on sunday, my sisters youngest child, hartley was christened. what a beautiful day. i know my dad and grandfather would have loved to be there, to see her in the parachute, and in so many ways they were.

my dad, richard west laroque
my sisters son, richard west gotbetter
my sister and hartley.

the gown is now safe in the mason jar until the next child in our family is christened. this connection to our past has brought much joy and sorrow. emotions are often this way, the happy times make us sad, the sad times make us thankful. to think of the deep anxiety my grandmother felt, not knowing if my grandfather would return home juxtaposed to how glorious sunday was.


  1. Amazing story AnnaBelle! You are such a wonderful writer too! Love You!

  2. You are so amazing!I love you and this!

  3. An absolutely beautiful story- I enjoyed this so much- what a great memory=

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  5. AnnaBelle-
    What a great story. I never knew any of that about you and Brittan. Thanks for sharing!

  6. What a touching story—even more so, because I have a personal connection to it. My uncle never returned from WWII either, but thanks to your grandfather, his remains were found and sent home. My uncle, Second Lieutenant Fred Skeels, flew under the command of your grandfather, Capt. Richard W. LaRoque, ASN 0417166 (it appears he was subsequently promoted to Major). They were stationed in southeastern England, which provided easy access into France. (continued)

  7. On the early evening of 18 July, 1944 your grandfather was leading his squadron of 3 other flyers, all four in P-47 Thunderbolts. He was in position #1; my uncle was in position #2. They had just started a bombing run when Fred encountered what Capt. LaRoque called, “intense, heavy, accurate flak” from the enemy. My uncle’s plane crashed near Dreux, France and burst into flames. Capt. LaRoque and the #4 man (F/O Guido Fritz Filippo) were the last people to see my uncle flying. Capt. LaRoque witnessed the crash and subsequently sketched a map showing the location of the crash that was included in the MACR. I’ve since learned that F/O Filippo was also killed in action at some later date. (continued)

  8. What a loss of three great Americans. God bless our military personnel. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It brought my grandmother some degree of closure when Fred's remains were sent home, thanks to your grandfather's map. I'm sorry your grandfather is still missing.

    Note: I retrieved most of this information when the Missing Air Crew Report’s (MACRs) from WWII were declassified.

  9. Dwskeels- if you get this will you email me?