Monday, September 17, 2018

Another classroom falls from the sky

On December 23, 2010 the following obituary appeared in the New York Times.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Fred Hargesheimer, a World War II Army pilot whose rescue by Pacific islanders led to a life of giving back as a builder of schools and a teacher, died here Thursday. He was 94.

His death was confirmed by his son Richard.

On June 5, 1943, Mr Hargesheimer, a P-38 pilot with the Eighth Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, was shot down by a Japanese fighter while on a mission over the Japanese-held island of New Britain in the southwest Pacific. He parachuted into the jungle, where he barely survived for 31 days until local hunters found him.

They took him to their coastal village, and for seven months hid him from Japanese patrols, fed him and nursed him back to health. In February 1944, with the help of Australian commandos working behind Japanese lines, he was picked up by an American submarine off a New Britain beach.

After returning to the United States following the war, Mr Hargesheimer married and began a sales career with a Minnesota forerunner of the computer maker Sperry Rand, his lifelong employer. But he said he could not forget the Nakanai people, whom he considered his saviors. 

In 2004, Fred Hargesheimer visited students at a school he helped build in Papua New Guinea.

The more he thought about it, he later said, “the more I realized what a debt I had to try to repay.”

Wednesday September 12, 2018

75 years after he was shot down and rescued, and eight years after his death, the  Airmen’s Memorial Foundation established by Fred Hargesheimer is still honouring his legacy.

The latest act of benevolence came on Wednesday, Sept 12, 2018,   with a ground-breaking ceremony at Nantabu Village, the village where Fred Hargesheimer was sheltered and nursed back to health.

The ground-breaking is for new teachers’ housing at the village school, a project that will cost US$ 100,000.

The ground-breaking ceremony was attended by Fred’s son Richard Hargesheimer who travelled from Lincoln, Nebraska to administer his late father’s legacy.

 Richard Hargesheimer and his wife Christy (centre) with children and teachers during the ground-breaking ceremony at Nantabu village. 

Speaking at the ceremony Richard Hargesheimer said:“It is a great honour to return once again to West New Britain to serve the people that saved my father’s life.

“75 years ago Fred Hargesheimer was shot down as the allied forces pursued world peace during the Second World War.

“War is never good, but good things do come from it, especially when it is in the pursuit of peace and freedom.

“My father wanted to repay the people, the Nakanai people who saved his life.

“He wanted to honour their kindness with kindness, and what better way to give than the gift of education.

‘So far the Airman’s Foundation has built classrooms and teachers’ accommodation in the villages of Ewasse and Noau.

“My father visited these schools and was always warmly welcomed, and I am sure he is with us now as once again we celebrate the special relationship between him and the Nakanai people.

“We have now come full circle, we are in Nantabu to perform a ground-breaking ceremony that will see the construction of teachers’ accommodation.”

Richard Hargesheimer also acknowledged the work of Hargy Oil Palms in administering and managing the work of the Airmen’s Memorial Foundation.

In a book released for Hargy Oil Palms’ 40th Anniversary, Richard Hargesheimer was interviewed by author Glenn Armstrong.

In the interview Richard said: “Without Hargy Oil Palms there would not be two schools, there wouldn’t be anything. The management of Hargy Oil Palms and their enthusiasm for what we were doing has been absolutely instrumental.

“The last two General Managers in particular – Graham King and Dave Mather – have simply been outstanding. Graham’s interest in education is almost unparalleled and David Mather was extraordinarily supportive – those were the two who I have been most closely connected to.

“They have been absolutely instrumental in seeing that those funds have been put to good use in terms of the school infrastructure, in a tropical area, with books and all other kinds of things, well after Fred’s passing.”

About Hargy Oil Palms

Hargy Oil Palms Limited held its first Annual General Meeting on April 28, 1978 and this year marks the 40th anniversary of the company based in Bialla, West New Britain.

Hargy Oil Palms Ltd provides direct employment to approximately 4500 people, with another 3700 smallholder families benefitting from our knowledge, processing and access to markets. More than 60,000 people are dependent on oil palm within the area served by Hargy Oil Palms.

Hargy Oil Palms’ social obligations includes schools such as those supported by the Airmen’s Memorial Foundation.

The company also recently completed new classrooms, teacher accommodation, a women’s resource centre and undercover basketball court at Pata-Painave Primary School, made possible by a K3.26 million grant from the PNG Incentive Fund, a jointly-managed program under the PNG-Australia Partnership.

Hargy Oil Palms gets its name from Lake Hargy, a volcanic caldera - a largely undisturbed montane, tropical-forest ecosystem in West New Britain.

Lake Hargy derives its name in turn from Major Fred Hargesheimer – the US Airman who was shot down in 1942 during World War 2 and was rescued by the people of Nantabu village. Fred Hargesheimer consequently established the Airmen’s Memorial Foundation to “give back” to the people that saved his life.

Fred Hargesheimer wrote a book about his experiences “The School that Fell from the Sky”, first published January 1, 2002.

The book is available on Amazon, rated 4.8 stars (out of 5 stars) with reviews and links to Amazon here:

No comments:

Post a Comment