Robert Nelson St. Clair, Korean War CasualtyPorter County Data on Korean War Casualties . . . .
Robert Nelson St. Clair
Airman Third Class
Date of Birth: December 17, 1934
Date of Death: April 9, 1954
Burial: Kimball Cemetery (Liberty Township)
Cause of Death: Drowned, YMCA Swimming Pool in Valparaiso
Hometown: Liberty Township
Robert M. [should read N.] St. Clair, 19, a VHS graduate, of RFD 4, was a drowning victim in the Porter County Y pool, city police were officially advised at 2:40 p. m. today. The fire department received a call for its inhalator at 2 o'clock, and rushed there in a futile attempt to save the youth's life. A doctor was also called.
Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; April 9, 1954; Volume 27, Page 236, Page 1, Column 5
AUTOPSY SHOWS YOUTH DROWNED
Inquest Set For Tuesday Afternoon
Robert St. Clair Memorial Rites Set For Sunday
A preliminary verdict of drowning was returned as a result of an autopsy Friday night to determine the cause of death of A3/c Robert Nelson St. Clair, RFD 4, Valparaiso, Friday afternoon in the Porter County YMCA pool.
The verdict will remain tentative until a coroner's inquest scheduled for 4 p. m. Tuesday is complete.
According to the coroner's report, no indications were found to substantiate the belief that cramps caused the drowning of the 19-year-old boy, reportedly a good swimmer.
The coroner said that no bruises were found on the body and that a fall or dive was ruled out. He said that the warm water probably ruled out a chill as cause.
Born in Valparaiso
The stomach and lungs were filled with water and no indications were found to cause any doubt that cause of death was due to drowning, the coroner reported.
The decedent, born in Valparaiso Dec. 17, 1934, the son of Earl and Garnet (Lipke) St. Clair, attended Valparaiso High school until his entrance into the air force Jan. 19. He held rank of Airman third class.
He is survived by, besides the parents, three brothers, William, Earl, Jr., and Paul, all at home; the maternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. William J. Lipke, RFD 3, and the paternal grandfather, A. N. St. Clair, RFD 4.
Memorial services will be held Sunday at 2 p. m. at the Bartholomew Funeral home with burial in Kimball cemetery. Air force color bearers and guard will function at the rites. Friends may call at the funeral home after 4 o'clock this afternoon.
Home on Leave
Ironically, St. Clair met his death while he was alone in the pool Friday afternoon and at almost the same instance 'Y' General Secretary Boyd Liddle was negotiating with a district Red Cross representative to initiate aquatic instruction and other safety measures at the YMCA.
The young man was on a 10-day emergency leave from Keesler AFB, Biloxi, Miss., to visit his mother, a patient at a Cleveland clinic.
YMCA President Milford Eggerding and Liddle, obviously distressed at the accidental drowning, both said the boy apparently "violated every rule of safety." And also said that even "reasonable caution would have prevented anyone from swimming alone."
The boy's body was discovered on the bottom of the pool in nine feet of water by Kenneth White, custodian, at about 2:20 p. m.
Enters At 1:30
Eggerding traced the movements of St. Clair from his entrance into the YMCA at about 1:30 until the discovery of his body in the pool.
Mrs. Carl Noftsger, receptionist, stated that sometime after 1 o'clock she observed the young serviceman driving around the block. On his second trip past the 'Y,' he waved to her and she, having known the boy most of her life, waved back.
He parked in the vicinity of the 'Y' and entered the upstairs lounge where he was observed by Mrs. Noftger and Eggerding. At approximately 2:05 he came to Mrs. Noftsger's desk and said, "I think I'll go take a look at the pool."
White and Jack Sullivan, local appliance man, were working in a room adjacent to the men's locker room installing a clothes-dryer.
When White left the room to go upstairs to the office, he noticed, in passing through the locker room, a single suit of men's clothing hanging from a clothes rack.
Aware of the rule that no one shall swim alone, he stepped through the door leading into the pool and saw the body clad in swim trunks lying on the bottom of the pool near the drain in the south portion.
White, unable to swim, attempt to raise the body by use of a pole, and when he was not able to do so himself, called for the assistance of Sullivan.
Sullivan, also a non-swimmer, leaped into the pool and waded as far as he could toward the body, but was not able to lift the boy to the surface with a pole.
Calls For Inhalator
White ran upstairs and told Mrs. Noftsger, who immediately put the emergency plan in action by calling fire department.
Fire chief Wilbur Cowdrey reported that his department received the call at 2:25, and that the voice on the phone said to "bring the inhalator to the YMCA. There's a body in the pool."
At about the time the call was being made to the fire department, Eggerding learned of the tragedy and just then Liddle returned from the courthouse where he had been conferring with the Red Cross representative.
Eggerding told Liddle a youth had drowned in the pool and Liddle hurried to the pool, leaped in, pulled the boy out, and began applying artificial respiration.
Then the firemen arrived with the inhalator and began working with the boy but were unable to revive him. A doctor arrived at the same time.
Warning Is Posted
Eggerding said that "the boy evidently took it upon himself to go swimming alone, for it is strictly against the rules to swim alone."
A large sign on the west wall of the pool says "Do Not Swim Alone."
Leave papers in the young man's personal effects showed that his leave was for 10 days and began April 5. He flew here to see his mother, arriving Tuesday night, but was too late since she had already proceeded to the Cleveland clinic.
He reportedly had planned to stop in Cleveland on his return to Biloxi and visit her then.
Liddle announced Friday that there will be no swimming at the pool until Monday.
Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; April 10, 1954; Volume 27, Number 237, Page 1 Column 8, and Page 2, Column 5
Airman, 19, Drowns in Valpo Pool
VALPARAISO (UP) -- A.3/C. Robert N. St. Clair, 19, Valparaiso, drowned in Porter County YMCA's new $110,000 swimming pool yesterday while on emergency leave from an Air Force base to visit his ailing mother.
Relatives said St. Clair flew home from Kessler Air Force Base, Biloxi, Miss., last Tuesday. However, his mother, Mrs. Earl St. Clair, had been taken to a Cleveland, Ohio, clinic for surgery earlier that day.
St. Clair told friends he intended to go to Cleveland next Monday enroute back to his base. Mean while, he went for a swim in a new pool dedicated only two weeks ago.
He was said to have entered the pool without permission or supervision of "Y" officials or lifeguards. A city fire department inhalator squad tried fruitlessly to revive him.
Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; April 10, 1954; Volume 27, Number 237
ST. CLAIR SERVICES
Funeral services for A 3/c Robert N. St. Clair, 19, RFD 4, who drowned Friday in the YMCA swimming pool, were held Sunday afternoon in Bartholomew Funeral home.
The Rev. Charles H. Smith, First Methodist church, officiated, and burial was in Kimball cemetery. Organist was Mrs. Florence Birkholz.
Color guard and pallbearers were from O'Hare field, Chicago.
Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; April 13, 1954; Volume 27, Number 239, Page 6, Column 5
Return to List of Porter County Korean War Casualties
Information abstracted and transcribed by Steven R. Shook