Fear John, Marjorie Widaman Killed in Viet Plane Crash

Warsaw Couple Among 82 Aboard; Wreckage Not Reached

By William K. Mollenhour


Warsaw attorney and Indiana University Trustee John D. Widaman II, 55, and his wife Marjorie, 52, were listed among 82 passengers aboard a Cathay Pacific Airlines Convair 880 jetliner (flight CX700) which crashed at 1:30 a.m. today in the central highlands of South Vietnam, 230 miles north of Saigon.

Mr. and Mrs. Widaman left Warsaw, May 29 on a world tour in connection with his duties as the university trustee.

U.S. military pilots reported today that the jetliner apparently exploded at 26,000 feet over mountainous terrain. They identified the flight by a number visible on the tail section of the wreckage, but emphasized that rescue teams had not yet reached the scene.

Members of the Widaman family at the Warsaw home were notified by Cathay Airlines this morning that the plane had crashed and the names of Mrs. and Mrs. Widaman appeared on the manifest along with 15 other Americans.

He was born in Warsaw April 30, 1917 and had resided in this city his entire lifetime, except for a tour of duty with FBI in San Antonio, Dallas and New London. He was the son of the late Allan and Florence Widaman, a graduate of Warsaw High School and Indiana University, where he received his law degree.

Widaman was a deacon, trustee and elder of the First Presbyterian Church in Warsaw, a past president of the Warsaw Rotary Club, past president of the Warsaw chamber of Commerce, member of the American College of Trial Lawyers, American Bar Association, Indiana State Bar Association, member of the board of directors of Clausing Corp., the American Legion, Elks and Shrine. He was a 32nd degree Mason.

Son, 3 Daughters

The Widamans had a son, John D. (Dan) Widaman III, and three daughters, Mrs. Don (Kathryn) Engle, Krista and Karen, and two sisters, Mrs. John (Christine) Kelley and Jean Widaman.

Mr. And Mrs. Widaman were married June 21, 1940, in Bicknell, Indiana, where Mrs. Widaman was born 52 years ago, the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. John Heidenreich. Mrs. Heidenreich is deceased but Dr. Heidenreich is still living. Mrs. Widaman was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Warsaw.

On Official I.U. Visit

At Bloomington, Indiana University News Bureau sources said the Widamans were known to be "in that area." A spokesman said they were on an official visit to view the educational programs in the Far East with which the university has contracts.

Widaman, a former FBI agent, has been an attorney in Warsaw for about 30 years. He became a member of the IU board about three years ago, succeeding Federal Judge Jesse Eschbach of Warsaw.

Widaman was appointed to the IU board on Aug. 20, 1970 by Gov. Edgar D. Whitcomb to fill the unexpired term of Eschbach. The appointment extended to June 1, 1971. At that time, Widaman was elected to a term on his own.

He was a native of Warsaw, a graduate of IU in 1939 with a bachelors degree in government. He received his law degree from IU in 1942, and joined a firm now known as Widaman, Bowser and Reed.

While at IU Widaman lettered in football in 1937 and 1938. He was a member of Beta Tau Pi social fraternity and served as vice president and president of the Indiana Law Club

Standout Athlete

He had been an outstanding all-around athlete at Warsaw High School (football, basketball and track) before going to I.U., where he was a starting end on the football team.

Widaman served as an FBI agent during World War II, from 1942 until he resigned in 1943 and joined the Navy. After the war he continued to serve in the Naval Reserve and retired with the rank of Lieutenant.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in the crash near Pleiku, 230 miles north of Saigon, but a U.S. Air Force officer there told UPI correspondent Matt Franjola: "Nothing blows up at 26,000 feet and anyone lives."

Franjola said authorities told him the Convair 880 jet "supposedly broke up, blew up or was hit at 26,000 feet at an area 30 miles south of Pleiku."

Franjola reported that U.S. Air Force observation plane pilots flying over the crash scene said wreckage of the airline was scattered over a half-mile area.

First reports said the Convair en route from Singapore to Hong Kong via Bangkok, may have collided with another plane. The U.S. Air force said non of its aircraft was reported missing. There were no initial reports from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps or South Vietnamese Air Force on missing aircraft.

A Cathay spokesman said todays crash happened about 2 p.m. He said the last radio message from the Convair was a routine voice reporting to Saigon Airport at 1:53 p.m. saying the plane was in a position in an air corridor near Pleiku code-named "Papa Echo Five."

Military sources in Saigon said U.S. Army helicopter pilots flying over the scene of the crash identified the airliner, Cathay's flight CX700, by its tail number.

The Convair normally carries a crew of nine, the spokesman said, but todays flight had 11 crew members.

President Mourns Loss

Dr. John W. Ryan, president of IU, said at Bloomington the deaths were "a grievous loss to Indiana University."

"Both were loyal alumni who gave unstintingly of their energy and support to their alma mater," Ryan said. "The entire university family, I know, joins with me in expressing heartfelt grief with their four children and the entire family. Especially we will miss John’s wise counsel in the meetings of our board of trustees on which he had served with distinction for almost two years."

Donald C. Danielson, New Castle, president of the IU board, described the Widaman deaths as "a tragic loss."

"My friendship with John and Marjorie Widaman goes back to our days as undergraduates," Danielson said. "There were no more loyal IU alumni. I mourn their loss as personal friends and the university is diminished by their deaths. The loss of John leaves a very large gap on our board of trustees."

Checking IU Programs

University sources said the Widamans had been gone since May 29 on a trip planned for the express purpose of checking on IU’s programs abroad.

They had visited Hamburg, Germany, where IU is engaged in a foreign language program; Kabul, Afghanistan, where the university has been assisting another university in reorganizing its administrative structure, and Bangkok, where IU had several projects going, one the creation of a school of education and another in public administration.

IU said the Widamans planned to visit Hong Kong, Manila, Tokyo and Hawaii before reaching the West Coast and stopping in Los Angeles before their return to Indiana on June 28.

Warsaw Times Union, Thursday, June 15, 1972


No Possibility Widamans Alive
Cause of Plane Explosion Mystery

There was no hope today that Warsaw attorney John Widaman and his wife Marjorie could have possibly survived Thursday's explosion and crash of a Cathay Pacific Airways jetliner in a Communist-infested South Vietnamese jungle.

South Vietnamese ground troops and U.S. Army helicopter rescue teams recovered seven bodies from the debris scattered over a mile-wide area 35 miles southeast of Pleiku. Eighty-one persons were on the plane. The rescuers reported no signs of survivors.

Widaman, 55 and his wife, 52 had apparently boarded the ill-fated plane in Bangkok. They had left Warsaw May 29 on a world tour in connection with Mr. Widaman's duties as an Indiana University trustee.

Members of the family, awaiting further information on the tragedy at the Widaman home, 1107 Country Club Ln., said today arrangements for funeral services are incomplete pending additional information. They requested that any memorial be in the form of contributions to the National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.

The law offices of Widaman, Bowser and Reed have been closed for the remainder of the week.

The Widamans leave four children--a son, John D. (Danny) Widaman III, at home; three daughters, Karen and Krista both at home and Mrs. Don (Kathryn) Engle, of this city. Danny is a law student at Indiana at Indiana University. Krista was graduated this spring from Warsaw Community High School where Karen will be a junior in the fall.

Mr. Widaman is also survived by two sisters, Mrs. John (Christine) Kelley and Miss Jean Widaman, both of this city. Mrs. Widaman, a native of Bicknell, Ind. is also survived by her mother, Mrs. John Heidenreich, of Bicknell. Marjorie's father, Dr. John Heidenreich is deceased.

Cause Remains Mystery
Cause of the crash of the Convair 880 jet, en route from Singapore via Bangkok to Hong Kong, remained a mystery. Military sources said the plane exploded at 26,000 feet. First reports said the airliner may have been hit by a U.S. fighter bomber but the U.S. Air Force said no allied aircraft were missing. The North Vietnamese are not known to have any surface-to-air (SAM) missiles in the area and a spokesman said the plane's altitude was beyond the range of anti-aircraft fire.

Despite the Air Force report, Cathay spokesman N. T. Hung in Saigon, 230 miles south of Pleiku, said a helicopter in the area radioed the Nha Trang control tower that "four parachutes were sighted after an explosion". Commercial planes do not carry parachutes as do military aircraft.

"We have had a lot of complaints from pilots" of allied planes maneuvering close to commercial planes over the South Vietnamese air corridor, Hung said.

The manpower thrown into the allied search operation kept any Communists forces away from the area, military spokesmen said.

Family of 6 Wiped Out

Among the 70 passengers and crew of 11 was a West Bend, Wis., family--Thomas J. Kenny, 50, president of the Ziegler Company, his wife, Roberta, 46; and four of their children: Kathleen, 21, Daniel, 20, Mary Jane, 15 and Coleen, 13. A travel agency spokesman in Singapore said they were on a three-week vacation billed as a "majestic paradise tour" of Asia by the organizer, Orient Paradise Tours, Inc., of New York City.

Traveling with the Kennys was a family friend, Andrew Pick, 20, also of West Bend.

Warsaw Times Union, Fri. June 16, 1972


Probers At Scene of Wrecked Plane Carrying Widamans

PLEUKU, Vietnam (UPI) --Search parties today reported finding a helmet, apparently belonging to an American serviceman, amid the scattered wreckage of a Cathay Pacific jet which exploded in the air Thursday.

All 81 persons aboard perished when the jet tumbled into the South Vietnamese Central Highlands.

Among the 81 on the plane were Warsaw Attorney John D. Widaman, 55, and his wife, Marjorie, 52. They had boarded the Singapore to Hong Kong flight at Bangkok. The Widamans had left Warsaw May 29 on a world tour relative to his duties as an Indiana University trustee.

But Airline and U.S. Air Force sources said no evidence has emerged of an air collision between the Convair 880 airliner and an allied war plane. The helmet with named attached, reported found by air line searchers, could belong to a long-fallen GI or a current air crew member.

A team of investigators from Cathay Pacific, helped by U. S. Army men flown in to the crash scene, sift through fragments of the airliner strewn over miles of a valley, 35 miles south of this provincial capital. Pleiku is 230 miles north of Saigon and on the commercial air corridor leading from Saigon out to the East China Sea and Hong Kong.

"There is no chance of any survivors," an airline spokesman said.

Warsaw Times Union, Sat. June 17, 1972

Believe Widaman Plane Broke Up Into 3 Main Pieces
65 Bodies Recovered

A Cathay Pacific jetliner with 81 persons aboard, including Warsaw Attorney John D. Widaman, 55, and his wife, Marjorie, 52, apparently broke up into three main pieces five miles above the South Vietnamese central highlands last Thursday, investigators said today. All aboard were killed.

The Widamans were on a trip visiting Indiana University-related projects in Europe and Asia.

Investigators virtually ruled out a collision with allied aircraft or a Communist missile strike in the commercial corridor 29,999 feet over a desolate valley 35 miles south of the South Vietnam provincial capital of Pleiku.

Authorities, reporting the recovery of 65 bodies, said the possibility of a collision was remote. They said it was possible a bomb exploded on board the Convair 880 jet or structural failure could have cause the disaster.

A crewman on a U.S. helicopter helping with the recovery of bodies was wounded Sunday by Communist small arms fire. South Vietnamese troops are patrolling the crash site and helping in the search for bodies. Searchers said some bodies may never be recovered.

Await Further Word

A close relative of the Widamans said today there was "nothing new to report." No word has been received here on whether the Widamans were among the 65 bodies recovered. It is improbable that any of the family will go to South Vietnam for body identification purposes. An Indiana University official, with the Widaman party on the trip, but not on the plane, is still in that area and should be able to make identification, the relative said.

No plans have been made here for funeral rites or a memorial service pending further information fro the search area in South Vietnam.

Warsaw Times Union, Monday, June 19, 1972

Memorial Services Friday for Widamans
At 2 p.m. in First Presbyterian Church

Memorial services will be conducted here Friday at 2 p.m. for Warsaw Attorney John D. Widaman, 55, and his wife, Marjorie, 52, who were among 81 persons killed last Thursday in the explosion and crash of a jetliner in South Vietnam.

The services will be held in the First Presbyterian Church, corner of Market and High streets, where the Widaman's were longtime members. Rev. Peter Eckert, pastor of the church, will officiate. The Chamness Funeral Home is arranging the services.

Members of the family have received no additional information on whether Mr. and Mrs. Widaman were among the approximately 70 bodies recovered so far from the Communist-infested South Vietnamese jungle where the plane went down 30 miles southeast of Pleiku.

The Widamans left Warsaw on May 29 on a world tour relative to Mr. Widaman's duties as trustee of Indiana University. They had boarded the ill-fated Cathay Pacific Airways jetliner in Bangkok. The plane was en-route from Singapore to Hong Kong, via Bangkok. The 70 passengers and 11 crew members were killed.

Cause Still Unknown
Cause of the crash remains a mystery. Investigating teams have been in the crash area the past several days. They said the plane broke up into three main pieces. There has been speculation that the plane, a Convair 880 jet, could have been hit by a U.S. fighter-bomber, but the Air Force said no allied aircraft were missing in that immediate area last Thursday. Other possibilities were that the plane was struck by a North Vietnamese missile, or that it exploded in midair due to possible sabotage. It may take months to determine the cause.

The Widamans resided at 1107 Country Club Ln. They leave four children --a son, John D. (Dan) Widaman III, a law student at Indiana University; three daughters, Mrs. Don (Kathryn) Engle, 721 East Main St., Karen and Krista, both at home. Krista was graduated this spring from Warsaw Community High School. Karen will b e a junior there next fall. Also surviving Mr. Widaman are two sisters, Mrs. John (Christine) Kelley, of 1111 Country Club Ln., and Miss Jean Widaman, of this city.

In addition to the four children, Mrs. Widaman is survived by her mother, Mrs. John Heidenreich, of Bicknell, Ind. The Widamans were married in Bicknell 32 years ago tomorrow.

Active in I.U. Affairs

The popular Warsaw attorney had been a trustee of Indiana University for the past two years. Both he and Mrs. Widaman were I.U. graduates and very active in alumni affairs. Mr. Widaman was a stellar athlete at Warsaw High School in the mid-1930s and was a starting end on the Indiana University football team. He became an FBI agent in 1942, during World War II, and in 1943 joined the United States Navy. He continued in the Naval Reserve after the war, retiring as a lieutenant.

Mr. Widaman joined the law firm of his late father, Allan Widaman, some 30 years ago and until his tragic death was the senior partner of the law firm now known as Widaman, Bowser, Reed and Geberin.

The Family has requested that any memorial be in the form of contributions to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Such donations should be mailed or given to Joe Shellabarger, 1305 Country Club Dr. in Warsaw, who will forward them to the MS office in Indianapolis.

Warsaw Times Union, Tuesday, June 20, 1972

600 Eulogize Widamans

More than 600 persons recalled poignant memories Friday afternoon of two persons who were "an integral part of Warsaw" during memorial services for John D. and Marjorie Widaman.

In two eulogies written about the former Warsaw attorney and his wife who died in a jetliner crash near Pleiku in South Vietnam nine days ago, the Rev. Peter Eckert, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Warsaw, expressed the emotions of friends and associates of the couple.

Dr. John W. Ryan, president of Indiana University delivered a stirring eulogy of the warmth and friendship the Widamans had constantly shown to their alma mater and to personal friends there. Widaman had served as an I.U. trustee for the past two years and had been touring Europe and the Far East on an education mission for the university when the jet on which he and his wife were traveling exploded and crashed. All 81 persons aboard the plane were killed.

Ryan Eulogy

Dr. Ryan called Widaman an "heroic, good and strong man...who was committed to serving his nation, state and community and who always subordinated his feelings of apprehension to offer encouragement to others.

Widaman's wit, humor and banter combined with his genuine sincerity and character brought harmony, if not agreement, to dissenting groups," Dr. Ryan said.

"John Widaman brought dedication, wisdom and love to the trusteeship at Indiana University and gave stature to the position. He won the respect and affection of students at a time when many students were divided from their universities.

"John and Pat Ryan were friends with John and Marge Widaman. We have been blessed with their warmth and friendship and have drawn our strength from the richness of their personal bonds.

"The Widaman's have enriched the heritage of Indiana University, and John Widaman has created a model for trustees, students and citizens to emulate," Dr. Ryan concluded.

Concluding the moving service, Rev. Eckert read a letter the Widamans might have written on Friday to those attending their memorial service, which included family, friends, Indiana University officials, retired Second District Congressman Charles Halleck, members of the local and Indiana Bar Associations, American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary and local service and law enforcement organizations.

Personal Message

The letter delivered a personal message to every person attending the service in a manner of prose and warmth that was characteristic of the Widamans. Few persons left the First Presbyterian Church doors on High Street without knowing their lives had been deeply touched by the couple who spoke through Rev. Eckert at the service.

A civic leader and lifetime resident of Warsaw, Widaman was a stellar athlete at Warsaw High School in the mid-1930s and was a starting end on the Indiana University football team. He served as an F.B.I. agent in 1942 and joined the U.S. Navy in 1943, retiring as a lieutenant after service in the Naval Reserve.

He joined his father's Warsaw law firm about 30 years ago and was the senior partner in the firm known as Widaman, Bowser, Reed and Geberin.

Surviving their parents are four children, a son, John D. (Dan) Widaman III, a law student of Indiana University; three daughters, Mrs. Don (Kathryn) Engle, 721 East Main St., Karen and Krista, both at home at 1107 Country Club Lane, Krista graduated this spring from Warsaw Community High School. Karen will enter her junior years there next fall.


Also surviving Mr. Widaman are two sisters, Mrs. John (Christine) Kelley, 1111 Country Club Lane, and Miss Jean Widaman of Warsaw.

In addition to the four children, Mrs. Widaman is survived by her mother, Mrs. John Heidenrich of Bicknell, Ind.

The Widamans would have celebrated their 32nd wedding anniversary on Wednesday, June 21. He received the bachelor degree in government from Indiana University in 1939 and the law degree in 1941. Mrs. Widaman was awarded the bachelor degree in business in 1941. He was 55 years old, and Mrs. Widaman was 52.

No additional information on the cause of the plane crash that took their lives has been made available. Investigators at the scene of the crash said the plane broke up into three main sections and ruled out the possibility of the Cathay Pacific Airways jet being struck in the air by a U.S. Air Force fighter-bomber.

Investigations and speculation indicate that the plane with 70 passengers and 11 crew members aboard could have been struck by a North Vietnamese missile or was sabotaged. An official determination is expected to take months.

The Widamans left Warsaw on May 29 on a world tour for Indiana University's overseas education programs. They had boarded the jet in Bangkok and were enroute to Hong Kong and were expected back home at the end of this month.

Warsaw Times Union, Saturday, June 24, 1972

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An Open Letter
June 23, 1972

(Pastoral Note: This is an "open letter" to those family and friends gathered for the Memorial Service for John and Marjorie Widaman at the First United Presbyterian Church, Warsaw Indiana. It has been prepared by the pastor as if speaking in behalf of John and Marjorie, if it were possible for them to be present. Let its message ring true and clear!)
- - - - - - - - - -
To Those We Love, Both Family and Friends:

It was just a week ago yesterday that our jetliner's crash brought a sudden end to our earthly lives among you. Over the past several days, cards and notes have arrived, as if not quite real, as if from the dead. But let us assure you that we are by no means dead. And this is no letter from the dead. We are very much alive and concerned for you. And we have laid our concerns on the heart of your pastor so that he might speak for us on this sorrowful occasion that draws you together. Hear well what he says, and if he seems to portray what we would be saying, if there, listen closely and know that in every word we send our love.

In the twinkling of any eye, a sudden rendering of the curtain which divides earthly life from the life to come, the two of us entered into the presence of the Master we have worshiped and served all our lives. There was no prolonged illness. There was no long period of waiting after the other was gone. You did not have to endure a waiting time at our bedsides, feeling helpless to come to our aid. Our exit was quick and painless and painless…and together.

To those of you gathered here from the University, we would not wish you sorrow on our account. How many men and women have laid their lives on the line in time of war, knowing not whether they would return, knowing not whether they would see their loved ones again. And many did not return. They took the risk and paid the price of caring for country and loved ones and friends. If men and women would do this in the midst of war, why would we not all the more take the same risk in the name of peace, in the name of a system of education dedicated to the development of full human potential around the world? We were doing what we believed in. If given the choice, we would do the same again. And we would welcome the opportunity to do it together. If you would honor us, press on with the work we shared, taking the unavoidable risks, absorbing the ultimate personal cost. If the task is not worth our lives, it is not worth our time. God be with you!

And there are those of you with whom we shared the practice of law. If you are normal and honest, you must have asked: "Why?" Here the two of us were, in our early fifties-the prime of life, personally and professionally. Why did it have to happen at all? And then comes the second question: "Why did it happen to us?" Why did it happen to the two of us when perhaps there are so many others who have done so little with their lives, who seem to be making little if any contribution to society, who may even be a blight on society to all outward appearances?

These are perfectly reasonable questions. You bring honor to our memory even to suggest that we be among those worth keeping around for society's benefit. But, as we have thought about this, to have spared us and taken some other couple would have been totally inconsistent with everything we have stood for over the years. Whom would you have put in our place on that fateful flight? Some other university official and his wife? Some other business man on a world tour? Some other lawyer from this community and his beloved companion? Some young serviceman and his bride? If we had not been there, someone else would have perished in our stead. We would not wish that on anyone. …And, as practicers of law, we have believed that, if the rights of even the most insignificant of citizens are jeopardized, the rights of us all are threatened. We believe in the adequate defense and basic worth of even the heritage we have tried to give. The choices now, however, are yours. We have every confidence that you will make the right ones more often than not.

Above these things, we have left you the memories of our example. We have truly loved each other through both joy and sorrow and now leave you the memory of that love. We have made friendships a rich part of our experience together, and we urge you to count your friendships precious. We have gotten involved in our community and our state and would want you likewise to find those things to which you can give yourself in the service of others.

But, most important, we would above all other considerations have you remember the high place we have given to our spiritual life. We want you to know that at the time of our exit from this life we were never more ready. Meeting the Master face to face has been the greatest experience we have known. We cannot and would not force you to follow in our footsteps of faith. Just know that every minute, every cent, every ounce of energy we have invested in spiritual things has been the best investment we have made. "Then" we could only guess and hope. "Now", we know.

We are so proud of you. We love you so much. We would bring you no sorrow, only the assurance that one day we will be together again. Until that day, don't look back. Make this the first day in the rest of your lives. Live it. Love it.

Your beloved Parents and Friends,

(through Rev. Peter A. Eckert)