Memorial service honors 50th anniversary of plane crash
When four Bellefonte men died in a plane crash in September 1969, many of their children were too young to know each other, but 50 years later, they finally had the chance to reconnect while honoring the victims.
In a memorial service held in Talleyrand Park on Wednesday night, more than 50 friends, family and officials gathered to remember Sidney Willar, 79, Robert Dunlap, 47, Gerald Robison, 29, and Harold Flick. While traveling to Harrisburg to meet about planning Bellefonte’s bicentennial, their plane crashed into a mountain near Port Royal at 4:23 p.m., according to a watch found at the scene.
Mayor Tom Wilson read a proclamation, honoring the 50th anniversary and said the men’s legacy and contributions to the Bellefonte community would not be forgotten.
Willar fought in World War I and was mayor of Bellefonte at the time of the crash.
While Curt Willar was only 10 years old in 1969, he said his grandfather was always willing to help someone in need.
“He was a really good person,” Willar said. “If he was 100 miles away, he would make it back to go to church on Sundays.”
Dunlap served in World War II. His daughter Bonnie Dunlap Darlington said he loved “family, country, flying, cars, boats and hunting.”
Darlington was 26 years old when her father died and said she was “blessed” to have more time than most of the children did. At the time of the crash, Darlington was pregnant with Dunlap’s first grandson.
“He lived every day to the fullest, and he died doing the thing he loved best,” Darlington said. “He touched many lives with his generosity, and he has left his legacy to be carried on by his children and his grandchildren.”
Although most of the children were too young to remember the crash, all of them said they were grateful to have memories growing up with their fathers — no matter how short.
“I have a super family — a great family. I can’t stress that enough,” said daughter Sherry Flick Walk. “But I had the best father in the world, I feel like even though our time was limited, the quality of that time was so great.”
President of the Bellefonte Jaycees, Flick was a member of the Big Spring bicentennial committee. He attended Bellefonte High School and was a member of the Civil Air Patrol as well as the Undine Fire Company.
Sisters Brenda Robison Winder and Kim Robison Harpster said their father missed their first boyfriends, seeing them go to prom, teaching them how to drive and dancing with them at their weddings. With their mother serving as both parents, Winder said she has not let her father’s death stop her from living.
“When you choose to let tragedy hold you back, you miss out on life,” Winder said. “You stop living your best life if you let it stop you. All tragedy is the same. It hurts. It hurts to the core.”
Winder, who is a frequent flier, said she often thinks about her father when she’s on a plane — more so if it’s a rainy day.
“Some people get over it and some people don’t, and it’s OK either way,” Winder said. “It’s part of your life. It’s part of your story.”