He served his country without hesitation. He was a father, husband and son. He loved his country and volunteered for a mission that he knew was dangerous.
He lost his life in Vietnam on Jan. 20, 1967, and while Arthur J. Abramoff’s service to his country as a pilot in the United States Air Force will resemble the bravery and heroics of so many other men and women, his legacy hits home for me a little more because he was my uncle.
I was 8 years old on Saturday, Jan. 21, 1967 when a knock on the door of my grandmother’s house in Margate, NJ would change our family’s life forever. My parents decided to visit my grandmother, as well as my aunt and two young cousins for essentially, the day. It was about a 2 hour drive from our then-home in the Ivy Hill section of Newark to Margate, and in January, there’s not much traffic on the Garden State Parkway, so the drive was uneventful.
I’m standing at the far right, with my uncle Art to my left. Also in photo (left to right) my grandmother, Betty, my father, Elias, Aunt Jane, Cousin Billy, my mother Marilyn and cousin Karen. This was the last photo taken before Art left for Vietnam.
We may have been at the house on Iroquois Avenue in Margate no more than 10 minutes when the doorbell rang. All I remember is my aunt saying to the man, who turned out to be a Military Chaplain, ‘oh, you’re in the wrong house’.
Any military wife knows who the Chaplain is and why he, or she, would be at the front door, especially during war time.
The Chaplain delivered a letter, essentially saying that the aircraft which 1st Lt. Arthur J. Abramoff was piloting on Jan. 20, 1967, was shot down over Vietnam. Despite valiant attempts to save him, Lt. Abramoff was killed in action. His body was recovered and would be flown back to the United States. A second crewman aboard that flight, a United States Army officer, survived the crash.
The rest of that day was kind of numb for all of us. I remember we stayed the next two nights in Margate, but my father wanted me to get back to school by the following Tuesday, so he drove me back to our home in Newark on the evening of Jan. 23.
My uncle and I were pretty close, and even though I was barely 8 when he died, the memories remain strong to this day.
On May 1, 2006, New York University, my uncle’s alma mater, dedicated a portion of the Helen and Martin Kimmel Center for University Life to Art’s memory. I had the chance to meet a lot of my uncle’s classmates and friends that day.
I also met now retired Col. Devere Henderson, who, like my uncle, was a young pilot stationed in Vietnam on Jan. 20, 1967. Col. Henderson was on the rescue mission that day in an attempt to save my uncle. It was an honor to meet Col. Henderson, a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy that day, and I’ll always be grateful to him for his service and valor.
I always find watching video of Super Bowl I to be surreal for me, because it was played on Jan. 15, 1967, just five days before Art’s final flight. Every time I see that tape of Green Bay playing Kansas City, it’s like ‘wow, he was still with us that day’.
Art Abramoff was 25 years old. He left behind a wife, Jane, daughter, Karen, son, Billy, sister, Marilyn and his mother, Betty.
I’ll never forget his service, nor the countless other Americans who have fought and died for our freedoms.