, Newburyport, MA

March 20, 2013

How Thresher victim's family coped with tragedy

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

Recently, The Daily News featured a very informative article about the Thresher, a submarine that plunged to the depths on April 10, 1963, carrying 129 men to their deaths. The loss of the Thresher had special meaning for residents of Newburyport because Robert Charron, one of their own, was on it. Although the article listed his name and the members of his family that included five children, there was no emotion in those few lines — no attempt to show how he might have felt or how the family survived.

For those who knew the family and for those who would like more insight into this tragedy, I’d like to share with our readers my interview with his wife conducted when I was writing my book, “Life in Newburyport 1950-1985.” His wife Ruth recalled:

“This was not the first run for the Thresher. A few months before, Bob had flown to the Bahamas for a test in what were shark-infested waters. They took the men out to the ship in a small boat and told them to climb out onto a ladder on the side of the ship. When I asked him if the test run scared him, he said he was more worried that day about falling into the water. The test showed no particular problems. Bob never talked much about what he was doing. When I asked, he said it was classified information.

“There was a mission at the French church the week he left that was to run from Sunday to Wednesday. We went the first two nights. He had to leave on Tuesday. Sunday evening they prayed the first decade of the rosary for those who could not finish the mission, and Bob remarked, ‘That might be meant for me.’ I said, ‘Don’t talk like that.’ The second night they announced there would be confessions after the mission. I asked Bob if he wanted to go, but he said, ‘I’m ready to meet my maker.’ Looking back, I wonder, did he have a premonition of what was to come?

“The government was very good to me. They handled all the paperwork, but it was my faith that saw me through. When one official asked me who was helping me, I told him that God was by my side, and my husband was still directing me from heaven.”

The city dedicated a new street, Charron Drive, on November 1965, in memory of Robert Charron.

Jean Foley Doyle