Parents often say the worst day imaginable is the day they bury their child. Kids are supposed to bury their parents, not the other way around, they say.
Jim and Rose Flisher, of Middletown, never even got an opportunity to bury their son, Raymond Francis Flisher. In fact, after he was reported missing during World II, his parents never learned how his life ended.
“That was a big void in the family,” said John O’Hara, Flisher’s great nephew. “The family never ever talked about it.”
Now, O’Hara wants to be the voice for the family.
He recently proposed to Middletown City Council that a marker be erected on Harrison Street in Middletown, where the family lived for decades and where all six children were delivered. The council presented him with a framed Memorial Tribute that said Flisher “made the ultimate sacrifice with his service to our country…”
O’Hara doesn’t want Flisher forgotten.
At least not a second time.
Flisher, a 1941 Middletown High School graduate, was 19 in 1943 and a fireman first class in the U.S. Navy. In January 1943, he was assigned to the submarine R-12/USS-89, which was built in 1919 and was the oldest in the Navy. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the R-12 had numerous assignments along the Atlantic Coast from Maine to the Panama Canal. In the spring of 1943, it was assigned to the Navy base at Key West, Fla., for shore patrol and training of new submarine crews.
On June 12, 1943 the R-12 was on shore patrol and demonstrating torpedo firing to two Brazilian Naval Officers. While on the surface, the R-12 had an unknown problem, the U.S. Navy said, that caused it to sink. All 42 crew members below deck were killed, including Flisher. Five crew members on deck survived and were later rescued.
O’Hara, system analyst at PAC Worldwide in Monroe, said the information that was forwarded to the family was “very vague.”
In a short story in The Middletown Journal, it said the Flisher family received a telegram from the U.S. Navy saying Raymond Flisher was missing. His parents, four brothers — Paul, Edward, Harry and Bill — and sister Margaret never found out what happened to Flisher during their lifetimes. All are deceased.
During the fall of 2010 — 67 years after it reportedly sank — a private exploration team found the R-12 (USS-89) in 600 feet of water off Key West. An underwater robot had confirmed the submarine’s identity and another expedition is planned later this to confirm earlier videos which show the R-12 may have sunk due to other circumstances than originally reported in the Navy files, O’Hara said
Eleanor Flisher, who married Harry Flisher in 1950, said Raymond’s parents never recovered from his death. Since JimFlisher signed for his son to join the military because he was only 17, he always blamed himself for his son’s death, she said.
“I don’t think he ever forgave himself,” she said.
His mother was “very religious” after Raymond’s death, and since she never learned to drive, she walked from Harrison Street to attend Mass every day at Holy Family Church, Eleanor Flisher said.
Every Memorial Day, Rose Flisher participated in the city’s parade, and when it ended, she visited her son’s marker at Woodside Cemetery. She wore a white dress to match her son’s cross.
Here’s hoping that today, others take time to visit Raymond Francis Flisher’s marker and all of those in the cemetery.
By Rick McCrabb - Middletown Journal, Ohio (MCT)
©2013 the Middletown Journal (Middletown, Ohio)
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