Harry H. Crosby
{ "" }
Share Harry's life story with friends and family
Send an Email
Or Copy this URL to Share
Harry Herbert Crosby, long-time resident of Newton, and of Lovell, Maine died peacefully at Jesmond Nursing Home in Lynn Wednesday, July 28, 2010. He was 91. Harry was born in 1919 to Guy and Eva Crosby in New England, N.D. His family moved to Oskaloosa, Iowa, where, during high school, he played clarinet and started, in his words, a floperoo of a dance band called Harry Crosby and his Maroon Melodies. Harry entered the University of Iowa, in Iowa City, a happy period of his life about which he spoke often, especially marrying Jean Evelyn Boehner, from Chillicothe, Mo., in 1943, and the fun of working at the Student Union as a Union Boy. In 1942, he joined the World War II war effort as a cadet, trained as a navigator, and arrived in England in June 1943 with the 100th Bomb Group (Heavy) of the Eighth Air Force. Rapidly promoted to Group Navigator, he was responsible for assembling as many as 2000 warplanes from various bases in England, leading them to their targets and safely home again. After a full tour of 25 missions, he remained in England for seven more, serving until the end of hostilities on May 9, 1945. He left the service with the rank of Lt. Colonel and many medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star and Croix de Guerre. Returning to school, he graduated from Iowa with an M.A. in 1947 and then from Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., where Wallace Stegner supervised his Ph.D. thesis in 1953. Harry taught English composition and American literature at Iowa City, where he was Writing Supervisor of the Rhetoric Program, from 1950-1958, when he moved with his wife and four children to Newton, Mass. for a faculty position at the College of Basic Studies at Boston University. He retired from Boston University in 1984, after chairing the Department of Rhetoric at CBS and authoring or co-authoring with CBS colleagues eight textbooks on college writing. During his early retirement, he served briefly as Director of the Writing Center at Harvard University. His combined military and university experience prepared him to help develop curriculum at the Air Force Academy, early in its history in Colorado Springs. In 1960, Harry took a leave of absence from Boston University for two years as Director of Studies for the Pakistani Air Academy in Risalpur, (West) Pakistan. There with his family, he helped develop a pilot training program into an academy like the service academies in the United States. During his 26 years in Newton, he and Jean were very active in church, community and civic affairs. They attended Grace Church where Harry served on the Vestry Committee and, with Jean, supported church sponsorship of several immigrant Cambodian boat people families. They chaired the Newton campaign effort for Representative Father Robert Drinan during several election seasons and, in 1980, Harry worked in Representative Barney Franks first congressional campaign. He was also an early and long supporter of Michael Dukakis political career. Harry served on the Newton Board of Aldermen from 1970|1973, during which he was particularly pleased to support development of both the Newton Arts Center and low-income housing. Harrys wife Jean died of cancer in 1980. Harry married Mary Alice Tompkins Brennan in 1982 and moved with her to her lovely hilltop tree farm in Lovell, Maine after retiring from academics. During his sixteen years in Lovell, Harry continued his commitment to community service as a Trustee of the Charlotte Hobbs Memorial Library, an active member of the Lovell United Church of Christ, and participant in the Grey Eagles, a New Hampshire organization of veterans of WWII. He also founded and led The Jefferson Group a weekly Sunday afternoon gathering dedicated to discussion of scholarly matters and topics of the day. While in Maine, Dr. Crosby authored two more textbooks and, in 1993, Harper Collins published his well-received WWII memoir, A Wing and a Prayer, a personal history of the famous Bloody 100th Bomb Group flying B-17s out of England. The book was carried by the Smithsonian Institute gift store and through their catalog for several years and Harry traveled extensively promoting the book. In 1998, for his 79 birthday, Harrys children took him to London for interviews about his WWII service, and for a visit to the 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum at Thorpe Abbotts, the small airfield from which Harry flew. Harry remained an active veteran by serving for two and a half decades as editor of the 100th Bomb Group Associations Splasher Six publication. His name figures in nearly every history of the Eighth Air Force, especially Edward Jablonskis book about B-17s, Flying Fortress, and Harry was interviewed as recently as last year for his appearance in a March, 2010 television show, The Bombing of Germany shown on PBSs American Experience. In 2001, Harry moved from Maine to Springhouse, an assisted living facility in Jamaica Plain, where he enjoyed the many activities, visits and travel with his family, and the highly professional and friendly staff until just six weeks before his death. At Springhouse, he was called Mr. Wonderful because, when asked how he was, he reliably replied with a hearty, Wonderful! and during his brief stay at Jesmond Nursing Home in Lynn, he was called Friend because thats how he addressed everyone else. Harry is survived by his wife, Mary Alice Brennan-Crosby, of Lovell, Maine; four children, Steve of Boston, April of Fairbanks, Alaska, Jeff of Lynn, and Rebecca Hutchinson of Deerfield, N.H., eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild; and three stepchildren, Haley Childs, Maura Brennan Burton and John Tompkins Brennan, and five step grandchildren. Arrangements are being made by the Eaton Mackay Funeral Home. As he wished, Dr. Crosby will be cremated and buried beside his first wife in the East Parish Burying Ground, the Old Newton Cemetery on Centre Street. A memorial service is planned for Saturday, Aug. 7, at 2 p.m. at Grace Episcopal Church, 76 Eldredge St. in Newton. Harrys friends and colleagues are invited to join his family at this service to celebrate his long and full life. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Springhouse Employee Holiday Fund, Springhouse, 44 Allandale St., Jamaica Plain, MA. 02130.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in The Newton Tab from Aug. 3 to Aug. 10, 2010.
Memories & Condolences
Guest Book sponsored by In memory of aviators everywhere
Not sure what to say?
View Printed Guest Book
24 entries
January 5, 2020
I just completed reading Harrys book A wing and a prayer. It is a magnificent read on the life of a eighth air force airman in WWII. Harry would agree that war is to be avoided at all costs but thank God for people like him who answer their countrys call when no other choices are left. I live near his farm in Western Maine. Which I could have shook his hand and thanked him for his service and his remarkable book.
November 17, 2018
My father-In-Law Harry Crosby was a multi-talented individual, a skilled wrriter, a 32 mission air navigator, father and a whiz at Croquet.

I'm learning more about the Second World Air War and the interesting politics of the US, Britain, France and the Soviet Union. I wish I could ask him questions and just talking to him again would be great.
Merritt Helfferich
February 2, 2015
God Speed Colonel Crosby. Hope time has provided comfort to your loved ones. Knew Colonel Klinakowski, another 100th lead navigator -and through him heard about Colonel Crosby. Great men who were there when we needed them.
Jim West
March 18, 2014
In 1993 my daughter, Jana, was at the library in Dayton,OH,when Harry was signing his book,"A Wing and A Prayer". She bought one, and he signed it with note Navigator to Radio. I was in the 390th with 35 missions. I'm reading it the second time. My condolences to his family.
Carl Crisp
February 19, 2014
I am a 62-year-old female who just finished reading "A Wing and a Prayer." I enjoyed it as much as any male reader might because it is so well written. I was riveted by the action and the accomplishments of this brilliant hero and those he served with. The world would be a different place if we had not had such men. Thank you, Mr. Crosby, for your service and your book.
Darla McFarland
July 8, 2013
My father Harold L Heyneman flew in the 100th 349th. Mr Crosby sign my copy for my dad at one of the reunions. Great book sir !!
Charles Heyneman
June 9, 2013
I have just finished reading Harry's great book "A Wing and a Prayer". I wish I could have met him, he was one of a great generation who exemplified what is best in the Human Race.
David Pellerin
March 30, 2013
I find myself here after reading A Wing and a Prayer. I am sorry to see Mr. Crosby has passed on. He certainly accomplished a lot in his life as did others of his generation. The United States was lucky to have people like this who answered the call during a difficult time.
Wayne Bavry
September 20, 2012
My dad was in the 100th bomb group, he died in 2009, his best friend died today, Ralph Bates, also in the 100th bomb group. I want to get Harry's books, to add to my collection, I did not know until today that Harry had passed away, he was a wonderful man, did so much with his life. Please let me know how I can order his books, so my grandchildren will always know about these incredible men of the 100th Bomb group. I want every one of them!
Pat Archer
June 23, 2012
I was thinking about Harry, and his wonderful book, and the kindnesses he showed others, as I was reading "Hell Above Earth," another book about WWII B-17 fliers. What I was thinking was how much better-written and compelling Harry's book was; it deserves a place on the front shelf of all WWII literature. It almost made future books on the same topic unnecessary!
I lost track of Harry after he left the Lovell area, but thought of him often -- but reading the newer book made me want to find out where he was. So, as one can these days, I googled his name, to find out he was gone -- he passed the same week, in fact, that I left my long-time employment to fully retire in 2010, and a month before my own mother's death. Harry Crosby was a great man and I am honored to have known him.
Mike Corrigan
February 25, 2012
The man who never bombed Bonn.
He remembered what it felt like to fly
One of the 8th's Castles in the Sky
What it felt like to taste Victory.
What it felt like to answer the Call.
What it felt like to see comrade Fall.
RIP Harry.
Geoff Martin
February 9, 2012
Harry and my father were friends and crew mates in the "Bloody 100th." They remained friends to end of my father's life in 1977, when Harry spoke movingly at my father's memorial service. He was a good friend to me as well.

He was a wonderful, kind and quietly courageous man and as he said about my father at his memorial service, "I will miss him very much."

Dan Levitt
Dan Levitt
May 16, 2011
Harry was one of my heros ever since I read 'Flying Fortress' as a 10-year old in 1964. Rest in Peace.
Hadi Al-Saadoon, Seattle WA.
April 1, 2011
I've read Harry's book several times and I find something new in it every time. What a fascinating man I wish I had met him (Alun Williams, Cardiff, UK)
November 17, 2010
so sorry to hear about Mr Crosby passing.He didn't know me,but I knew him from reading anything I could find about him.Art Peters
November 8, 2010
Harry was a dedicated member of our church and greater community in Lovell, Maine. I always remember his jovial greeting whenever we crossed paths, "Hi Di!" I wish I could have spent more time with him before he passed. He's such a wonderful, genuine, kind person.
Diana McAllister
September 1, 2010
Just read of Harry's passing in today's Globe. To all of you, my most sincere condolences. Harry was a very special, true, and dear friend and mentor to me for many years. The breadth of his compassion and understanding was inspiring.
Susan Schur Kaufman
September 1, 2010
Becky - Unfortunately, it's occasions like this that re-establish old connections. Your dad was a fabulous guy (no need telling you) capable of gaining the respect of obnoxious know-it-all teens like me

Don't know about you, but I must be getting old. My oldest grandchild, Hannah, starts kindergarten today. She has a brother and I have two more (grandchildren) on the way. AND my wife is retired !!, something I'll never be able to afford to do.

Hope all is well with you

Steve G.
Steve Greenbaum
August 11, 2010
Becky and family: I am so sorry to learn of your father's death. He was the rarest of people: strong-willed and compassionate, pragmatic while committed to ideals, gracious and protective. He was a lovely man who made one feel as though he felt he was talking to the most important person in the world at that moment. We are all better people for having had this fine man in our lives.
Kathy Humphrey
August 5, 2010
Jeff Crosby and Family we the Thomas/Quintana family are very sorry for your loss. Our sincere condolences.
Josefina Quintana
August 4, 2010
Harry was my Humanities professor at Boston University in the late 70s. He was a remarkable teacher and a gentle and kind person. He made a great impression on me and I thought of him often. I knew, though, he was happy and blessed with a wonderful family. I send you all sincere condolences.
Olivia (Lane) Hewitt
August 2, 2010
Becky, I'm so very sorry to read of your father's passing. Please accept my sincere condolences.
Cindy Nasrallah
Cynthia Macdonald
August 1, 2010
Harry can now join the angels in singing, having heard them lo these many years ago.
Paul West
August 1, 2010
Beckey and Family, so sorry for your loss, I remember working with Harry on political issues in the 1970's in Newton. Great guy
lee white
Invite others to add memories
Share to let others add their own memories and condolences