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Dutch archivist connects F-M grad with father’s WWII past

Sheila Vester, a Fayetteville-Manlius High School graduate, stands at a monument erected in the Dutch town of Lisse to honor the flight crew of her father, William Goodfellow. Goodfellow’s B-17 bomber, the Jayhawk, crashed near the town Sept. 26, 1944, during a mission in WWII. He didn’t actually fly in the plane, having injured his hand cleaning his gun the night before, but those who did were his close friends at wartime.

Sheila Vester, a Fayetteville-Manlius High School graduate, stands at a monument erected in the Dutch town of Lisse to honor the flight crew of her father, William Goodfellow. Goodfellow’s B-17 bomber, the Jayhawk, crashed near the town Sept. 26, 1944, during a mission in WWII. He didn’t actually fly in the plane, having injured his hand cleaning his gun the night before, but those who did were his close friends at wartime. Courtesy Sheila Vester

— An article in the Sept. 29, 1944, edition of the Eagle Bulletin addressed that Goodfellow was being treated for injuries in a hospital, but said no further details were given, adding: “The word came through a letter written by a buddy, who said Bill was unable to write because of an injury to his hand.”

“My father never made the flight, and I didn’t know that,” Vester said. “But Erwin included my dad because it was his crew, it was all his friends, the guys he flew with. My dad had stories about each and every one of them.”

Goodfellow was a mail carrier for the Fayetteville Post Office for 33 years, and raised three children — Sheila, Cheryl and William Goodfellow III — with his wife Pauline.

De Mooij would eventually find the name “Bill Goodfellow” in a newspaper article about young servicemen who fought in WWII. He then did what he always does when faced with a name and little more: wrote letters to as many people as he could find within the area whose last name was also “Goodfellow” and hoped for someone to respond.

“That someone was Sheila Vester,” de Mooij said.

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An old edition of the Eagle Bulletin shows William Goodfellow (right) accepting a certificate of achievement from J. Vincent Allen, assistant postmaster, for 25 years as a Fayetteville Post Office mail carrier; he would retire after 33 years, the last 10 of which he was the post office’s only rural mail carrier, “taking to the highway no matter what the weather,” according to the paper’s archives. Goodfellow lived with his family at 100 Warner Road in Fayetteville.

Vester called de Mooij after hearing from her uncle that de Mooij was investigating the plane crash, which before then she had heard nothing about. She grew up hearing stories about her dad’s time as a B-17 gunner, but he never shared anything too graphic, she said.

“We didn’t know anything about it,” she said.

Vester’s family was one of the last crew members’ families de Mooij was able to track down.

“And how he got a hold of my uncle, I don’t know,” Vester said. “Because ‘Goodfellow’ is kind of a common name out this way. It’s like ‘Smith’ anywhere else.”

At the time, de Mooij hoped the families would teach him something about their fathers’ time in WWII, and hoped to help them find eyewitnesses of the crash in order to provide them with information.

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