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12 Paul and the WASP Paul Crews was not an Alabama native; his family came to Birmingham from Elgin, Illinois. His father, Fristoe Givens Crews, was a store manager for Sears, Roebuck & Co.—but he was a specialist at what he did. He had the skills to improve the profitability of a store and he was sent to Birmingham in the 1930s to do just that. Fristoe’s family came from the Missouri Ozarks. Paul’s mother, Lala Bell Silvernail—whose grandmother was an Indian princess—was from Michigan. When Paul and Nancy met at a fraternity–sorority mixer at the University of Alabama, Nancy already knew who Paul was. She and his sister, Cleo, had gone to Ramsay High School together. Both girls entered the university as freshmen the fall of 1937. Cleo told Nancy that her brother was enrolled as well. When Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity invited the young women of Alpha Gamma Delta for a dinner at the fraternity house that fall, Nancy met Paul for the first time. “We had something to talk about since I knew both his sisters.” Paul Hubert Crews was born October 13, 1915, in Hastings, Nebraska. Graduating from high school in the Depression years, he went directly into the workforce. When he entered college, he was twenty-two, more mature than the boys just out of high school, and far more serious about his studies . He was enrolled in the School of Commerce and worked as a grader for one of the professors. Medium tall (five feet, eleven inches), he had black wavy hair and wore glasses that did not hide his intelligent brown eyes. He was quite handsome in a scholarly sort of way. Like many college men of his generation, he joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). Following graduation, Paul entered the Army Reserves as a second lieutenant and was teaching ROTC at the University of Alabama when war was declared December 8, 1941. He was activated immediately in the Army Air Forces. Assigned to the 9th Air Force, Paul was sent first to Egypt and, later in Paul and the WASP • 99 the war, to England. He was there at the time of the Normandy invasion. He rose steadily in rank and completed his World War II service as a member of the Inspector General’s staff. He was released from the Army in early 1946 with the rank of lieutenant colonel. When the Korean War began in June 1950, he was called back into the United States Air Force—now a separate service from the Army. In 1952, Paul was sent to the Pentagon, and once again he was with the Inspector General’s staff. The Pentagon job frequently took him abroad to Africa, Europe, and England. “He brought back boxes of toys,” Paul Jr. recalled , “things nobody else had, like a pair of camel saddles. We used to sit in them and watch television.” The Crews family had one car then and often Nancy and the boys drove Paul to work in the morning and picked him up in late afternoon. While waiting for him, the boys played on the steps of the Pentagon. Living in Kensington, Maryland, they had to drive through Washington, D.C., to get to the Pentagon. “We saw a lot of buildings and monuments. We were right in the middle of American history,” said Paul Jr. Paul Sr., promoted to full colonel in 1952, opted to stay in the Air Force and in Washington after the Korean Conflict. Then in 1956, he was assigned to southern California. The Crews family made the move west to Anaheim into a fun, cross-country, summer camping trip. When, less than two years later, he left the Air Force to take the job at Northrop, Paul began several years of a long, arduous LA-style commute. In 1964, the family moved to Inglewood so that he would be closer to the plant. There was, however, more to the story. Nancy was growing increasingly concerned because “Paul didn’t feel good, he began losing weight, and his whole nature changed.” Paul was on his way to a possible vice presidency with Northrop when, in 1965, he was diagnosed with diabetes. The diagnosis came about as a result of a medical situation that surfaced, seemingly, out of nowhere. “We were at the beach in Laguna and he was unable to negotiate the stairs,” Paul Jr. recalled. “He had to stop halfway up. He knew something was wrong...


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