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Family of Missing World War II Airman to Return to the Site of his Death

April 16, 2019, St. Joseph, Michigan – In December 2017, Sister Mary Ann Rybarczyk, OP, and her family buried her brother, U.S. Navy Airman Albert “Bud” Rybarczyk, who had been missing in action since 1944, when his plane went down in the South Pacific. 

Now, Sister Mary Ann’s niece, Cindy Gray, and Cindy’s son Adam Gray will travel to the site of the wreckage of the three-man Avenger torpedo bomber that crashed near the South Pacific Island of Palau. Adam will assist the team of Project Recovery as they search for the remains of the pilot, J.J. Savage. Pat Scannon, founder of Project Recovery, found the wreckage and the remains of Airman Rybarczyk and gunner Ora Sharninghouse. Read the entire article, printed in the Herald Palladium and written by John Matuszak, here.

Sister Mary Ann Rybarcyzk’s Brother to Be Laid to Rest 70 Years after His Death

December 5, 2017, St. Joseph, Michigan – After a 73-year wait, Sister Mary Ann Rybarczyk, OP, and her family will lay her brother to rest on Monday, December 11, 2017, with full military honors. 

Naval Reserve Aviation Radioman 2nd Class Albert Peter “Bud” Rybarczyk had been missing in action since September 8, 1944, when the naval plane in which he was flying was shot and went down into the sea. A member of the Navy Torpedo Squadron Eighteen (VT-18), on the U.S.S. Intrepid, he was on a bombing mission against the Japanese positions on Babelthuap Island, Palau. His remains were discovered on August 16, 2017.

The remains will be flown to Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Thursday, December 7. The wake for Petty Officer Rybarczyk will be from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. Sunday, December 10, 2017 and the funeral Mass at 1:00 p.m. Monday, December 11, 2017, at St. Joseph Church, 220 Church Street, St. Joseph, Michigan. He will be buried with his family at Resurrection Cemetery in St. Joseph, the family’s hometown. 

The services will be special, Sister Mary Ann said, with 11 Navy men from throughout the United States in attendance. 

The funeral rituals will bring closure to a 73-year journey for the Rybarczyk family. Sister Mary Ann said her brother joined the Navy shortly after graduating from high school and served as a radio man. She was about 12 years old at the time. When her brother died, he left behind his mother, two sisters, and a brother. His father had died when Sister Mary Ann was about 4 years old.

“The military came and delivered the letter, saying they’re sorry, but your son is missing in action,” Sister Mary Ann recalled. His brother was part of a three-man crew bombing an ammunition dump when their plane was struck. “They knew where the plane went down but they couldn’t immediately find any bodies,” she explained. After a year, her brother was declared deceased.

Sister Mary Ann recalled her brother’s deep concern for his family. He had told his mother that he’d taken out the biggest life insurance possible to take care of her for the rest of her life. The insurance money allowed the family to buy a small house and enabled her mother to quit her job to take care of her children full-time. “I remember coming home from school,” she said. “It was so nice to have my mother there. Bud took good care of her.” 

Sister Mary Ann credited members of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency for their efforts in finding her brother. “They never give up on looking for the MIAs and POWs,” she said. “They just keep looking and looking.” In the meantime, she said, the Navy kept a file on her with her DNA to help in identifying the remains of her brother.

Sister Mary Ann said the years since her brother’s death have been a period of waiting. “You just keep waiting and waiting for somebody to be knocking at the door with answers,” she said. “It’s been so long ago. You’re talking 70-some years ago when this happened.” 

While receiving the body will be hard, Sister Mary Ann said, her family is grateful that he was finally recovered after so many years. “Everyone in the family is so happy that they’ve found him so we’ll be able to have him here at home.”



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