Our next door neighbor in Selma, Alabama, Lt. Richard Neal Herndon, was killed in a T-33 training accident on September 19, 1959 close to where we lived. He was an instructor pilot at Craig Air Force Base. Herndon’s student, Lt. Donald B. Wilcox, also perished.
Mrs. Herndon (Mary) was my babysitter back then while mom worked at Vaughan Hospital. I believe she made the transition to New Vaughan Memorial Hospital as well. My family lived in Jones Trailer Park at the time.
Lt. Herndon (Dick) always took time to talk to my brother and me. He even fixed a flat on Jim’s bicycle. While dad was away in Korea we kind of adopted him. He was our hero in being a jet pilot. After the accident I never saw Mary Herndon again. I still remember a wreath hanging on the Herndon’s small trailer door.
I didn’t find out until much later that Richard Herndon and his wife lost a newly born daughter on January 28, 1959. The little girl, Kimberly Therese Herndon, was only two months old. She’s buried at New Live Oak Cemetery in Selma. Mary Herndon lost a husband and child in eight months.
Kimberly Therese Herndon’s gravestone was nearly undistinguishable from algae and grime. Thanks to the efforts of Doug Buster and his Cemetery Preservation Group, the small white monument was cleaned and looks as it did 60 years ago.
Kimberly’s dad, Lt. Richard Herndon, is buried some 2,038 miles away at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
I like to believe that father and daughter have been together now for close to 60 years in Heaven.