Willis man hopes to bury missing father 60 years later

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WILLIS, TX – Growing up without a dad is tough. Today, that’s about one in three kids in America. 77-year-old Jerry Hoblit says it’s no way to live. And he should know — his dad’s been missing for more than 60 years.

You see Colonel Noel Hoblit was in the Air Force during World War II. Jerry didn’t really get to know him until after the war when he was 9. They bonded during weekend ski trips. But seven years later, his father was killed (along with 51 others) on an Air Force cargo plane headed to Alaska.

“They were talking to them and tracking them, I assume, on radar, and they disappeared,” explains Jerry, a retired Air Force colonel now living in Willis on Lake Conroe. “They knew they had hit the mountains. They knew it was winter in Alaska…They offered no hope of survivors.”

So at 16, Jerry made a tough decision, “I was 10 years older than my little brother and now his dad is gone for good, and I felt the obligation to try and be a dad.”

A lot of pressure for a kid! But he seemed to thrive under it. Not only did he make it into West Point and survive as a fighter pilot through three tours in Vietnam, but his brother followed him to West Point and into the Air Force.

As for their dad, because of the freezing climate, recovering the wreckage and remains was deemed impossible. So with ice and snow, it became a part of Alaska’s Colony Glacier, a glacier that in the last few years has been melting away.

Fast forward 60 years to June 2012, a Blackhawk helicopter spots the wreckage, and a military recovery excavation begins. Now instead of just a stone marker in Arlington Cemetery, Jerry may finally get to lay his father’s remains to rest, if any are found.

The recovery team contacted Hoblit’s family. “They asked us if there is any known things that the family were sure were with him,” says Jerry. “I’m only sure of two things– one was a pair of skiboots that dad promised me he was gonna get and a Masonic ring.”

Finally getting those boots would have special meaning for Hoblit, a skier all his life. It’d be one last gift from his dad, but not the one he most wishes for most. “I’d give anything for my dad to have known my wife and children… anything!” says the 77-year-old. “Every buck I’ve got and every honor I’ve received, if my dad had seen it, it would have been a lot more.”