East Greenwich Rotary Charter Member, Gill Thorpe 




It was a big day for guests...

Charlie Winkler's grandson Andrew was with us for lunch, and Charlie did a stellar job of introducing him and trying to land him a job at the same time.  George Popella's girlfriend Deb Pellegrino also joined us.  Susan Waterman, daughter of Gill Thorpe and bride of past president Richard Waterman, was a guest.  Andy Erickson's better half, Polly, joined us.  Laura Krohn brought two guests, her dad, Doug Fusco, and Katherine Lesch, who she recently hired.  


It was a Rotary birthday on the 23rd for Richard Waterman.


Chuck Sauer received from President Ed a Rotarian of the Year pin, which was originally ready for Chuck on Installation Night way back when.  At that time, however, Chuck was recovering from knee surgery.  (Chuck was the club's first recipient of the Bipin Pancholi Rotarian of the Year Award.)  Ed discovered the pin and presented it to Chuck, as he did to all past Rotarians of the Year back in June.  


President Ed asks that we 'please remember that we are participating in the Feinstein Challenge to End Hunger.  Over the next five meetings we can all bring non-perishable food items, cash or checks made out to the E.G. Food Closet.  Bring your donations this week and every week for this great cause.' 


Jane Boynton promises that May 20th, Friday, will be the best food and wine event you've ever attended, so make sure you come with a half dozen friends and family members, and, don't forget a good auction item.  Jane also thanked Jerry Meyer for his help in getting us some good press in The Patch, The Independent, and The Pendulum.     


Andy Erickson has extended his attendance perfection to 39 years!  (That's about 1950 meetings in a row, for those with a handy calculator nearby.  And of course, that doesn't include all his never-ending Rotary efforts outside our regular weekly meetings...)  Congratulations, Andy!  


Congratulations to President Ed, whose son, David, proposed to his girlfriend, Allison, atop the Golden Gate Bridge.  David and Allison then proceeded on with their planned vacation (Ed joked 'trial honeymoon') to South America.

Judy Pratt thanked the EG Magazine for their Scott Carlson ALS 5K article coming up in April.  

Amy Levin was happy to report there were 17 construction bids for Temple Torat Yisrael.

Richard Waterman gave a birthday buck, a buck for having wife Susan present, and a buck for Gill Thorpe being our speaker.  

Jane Boynton reported on a fun trip to Las Vegas.  

Dr. Bob Miller gave a 'thanks' buck for Chianti's recent ALS 5K t-shirt sponsorship.

Chuck Sauer played an early April Fool's trick on new Rotarian and wife, Bonnie, telling her to be ready for her classification speech today.  

Gill Thorpe was happy to have lunch with his daughter, Susan. 

Doug Fusco, Laura Krohn's dad, was happy about recent gift from Laura--a new truck!

George Popella had a nice time at the Culinary Arts Museum in Providence recently.  

Charlie Winkler made another employment pitch to Rotarians on behalf of grandson, Andrew.  



Gill Thorpe, and his long search for Lt. Robert E. Thorpe 

Gill Thorpe's brother, Lieutenant Robert Thorpe, was not only a fighter pilot during World War II.  He was also Gill's hero.  When the war came, 'Bob' knew what he wanted--his pilot's wings.  While not a top student growing up in Cranston, RI, Bob graduated at the top of his flight class.  As far as worrying about Bob?  His parents worried, but not Gill.  After all, Bob taught Gill to fish, sail, cut lawns, and make a pretty penny selling scrap metal and old newspapers.    

Bob Thorpe made the 5-day journey to Australia, and thus into the Pacific War Theater, aboard a stripped B-24 bomber.  He traveled from there to Port Moseby, Papua New Guinea, at which time his combat missions began.  The weather there made for tough flying, much like the unpredictable New England weather.  

By May of 1944, Bob was flying strafing missions against the Japanese garrison at Wewak, the largest stronghold on mainland New Guinea.  The Japanese were dug in, largely cut off from air and sea defenses.  Just offshore to the north was Kairiru Island, on which Japanese troops were scattered.

On one of those missions, Bob's P-47D Thunderbolt was hit by small arms fire.  He ditched the P-47 into the waters off Kairiru.  Bob managed to use a floating log to reach shore where he was quickly captured, and by late that afternoon, executed after being tortured.  Gill, 13 at the time, was at home when two soldiers came with the news that Bob had been shot down, and, that his body was 'non-recoverable.'    


After decades of the Thorpe family never being completely certain of Bob's story or his whereabouts, Gill began in 2000 a journey to find the truth, and, to locate his brother.  It would turn out to be a very slow and cumbersome process.  Senator Chafee's office produced some flight records, but this helped little.  In 2004, Gill had an idea to inquire online with a P-47 Fighter Squadron website.  Things began to come together when he connected with Michael Claringbould, an author and Pacific war historian, who grew up in New Guinea during the war.  Claringbould eventually dug up 'WWII Missing Aircrew Report 5754,' which provided details of Bob's last moments, as well as sketches of his burial site. 

Along the way, Gill also reconnected with a childhood friend from Edgewood, writer Ken Dooley (who wrote a book on Celtic legend, Red Auerbach).  Ken also provided invaluable assistance in Gill search, using the Freedom of Information Act.  Dooley 'waded' through more than 1500 formerly classified documents to help determine what actually happened with Bob.  He discovered a trail covered up for years, including the dreadful details of Bob's treatment by the enemy.  He also found that the initial reports relating to punishment meted out to the five Japanese soldiers in the case were largely false; only one officer was truly punished.     

Bob Kerr of the Providence Journal also wrote of Gill's long trek in August, 2007 (see link below).   

Still in 2010, despite countless hours and many years of tremendous assistance from men like Dooley and Claringbould, 'JPAC' (Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command) has yet to positively locate the remains of Lieutenant Robert E. Thorpe. 

Finally, in a moving ceremony at the conclusion of our meeting on Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011, President Ed Neff and Paul Harris Award Director George Popella, took part in presenting Gill Thorpe's fifth Paul Harris Award to Gill's hero, Lieutenant Robert Thorpe.    


 Lieutenant Robert E. Thorpe 

 Gill Thorpe, with a picture of his brother, 'Bob'  ( both pictures above from www.PacificWrecks.org)