Adelbert Ross Crosby, Jr. was the first child and only son of an impatient and cantankerous man whose main virtues were to teach “Bert” a lifelong love of mechanical equipment and of guns for their deer hunting expeditions. Bert openly expressed love for his mother and respect for his father.
Bert met his future wife, Margaret Witham, while dating her older sister. But he soon realized that he preferred the quiet nature of the woman who went by the name of Peggy in her family. It helped that she idolized him. He later dubbed her as “Mig”, but I never thought to ask why. They eloped in August 1935 when she was 19 and he was one month short of being 19. Bert was already a very strong willed man who had the potential to support a wife.
Before World War II broke out he had acquired property across from an airport in rural Lisbon Falls, Maine where he housed his own Piper Cub. The barn housed a motor cycle and several cars. Mom looked after us four kids while keeping the wood burning stove busy with pots bubbling and pastries baking. It was necessary for heating the farm house and she hated to waste the heat. Bert had been working in a nearby shipyard as an electric welder. His large family and the welding occupation kept him from having to enlist after the Pearl Harbor attack. Instead, they hired a housekeeper, Mom trained as a welder and they both helped support the war effort. Near the end of the war, Dad was called into the Army to serve with other older men. Although he received basic training, he never saw combat. His first assignment was in the summer of 1946 at a base in Boca Raton, Florida where we started experiencing military life as a family.
Being in the Air Force allowed him to be a world traveler, and he enjoyed sharing his experiences with his family. In all, he had served in, or had traveled to, at least twenty countries. While away he would write long letters or make “reel to reel” tapes describing the country or his “living arrangements”. When returning he shared photos, souvenirs (such as coins, stamps or apparel), rosary beads and prayer books from the Holy Lands, and confections from each cultures for us to appraise. Touring the Holy Lands seemed to be the epitome of his service career. He later used his 35mm slides in his recruiting job convincing young people of the benefits of world travel in the Air Force.
He was proud of his Air Force career and instilled in us a curiosity of the world around us. Being only a sergeant, he was never allowed to take his large family on overseas assignments, but when he was stateside he would take us to investigate everything near where we lived. He told us, “I don’t want to be liked the people in New York who have never visited the Statue of Liberty.”
Following his example, my brothers joined the Armed Services and shared with me similar experiences as Dad’s. In my early marriage I met the mailman each day to receive letters from Dad while he was serving in personnel management in Japan, from Dick as a jet mechanic in Vietnam, Bob as a telephone line repairman in Okinawa, and my Mom who was in Gainesville, Florida waiting for Dad to retire. Both Dick and Bob’s families lived near her.
My mother died in May 1972 after a two year struggle with cancer. It was the only time we saw Dad cry. He felt it unlikely that he could ever remarry. He decided to tour the country and seek out old friends and military buddies. When he stopped for an extended visit with “Aunt Pat” (who had been a foster child in the Witham family), I suspected a relationship had developed. Louise Pattison Norwood had been struggling with a devastating divorce. It didn’t take long for him to realize they were right for each other. They married in July 1973—a good marriage that lasted sixteen years before Dad died of a heart condition.
The basic principle Dad taught his children was the work ethic—the love of working and doing the job right. Being honest and to keep your word was paramount. Being clean, neat and orderly and beautifying your surroundings was a trait absorbed by all his children. He taught by example to go the extra mile and to serve your fellow man. We cherish the commendations he received as he served in orphanages while overseas.
He said many times before his death, “I have so much to be thankful for. There is no one on earth more well off than me. I have lived a full life and don’t need anything else.” He died at peace with God and was loved and admired by many especially his family.