BRADENTON -- What stories Howard “Hi” Price’s family, friends and comrades from long ago will share Friday at Sarasota National Cemetery.
His son’s a little concerned.
“A lot of folks coming said, ‘Your dad wanted us to talk about him, so we’re going to do just that at the service,’” said Ralph Price, 65. “Each service is only 30 minutes, which doesn’t leave much time.”
So they’ll all adjourn to the house shared by the retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and his widow, Shirley, after the 1 p.m. burial with full military honors and tell them.
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It would be fitting for the longtime Bradenton resident’s rich legacy.
“He lived enough experiences for nine or 10 men,” said daughter Carolyn Price, 53.
He did, indeed.
Before Price died June 11 at the age of 92, he was:
n A fighter pilot with 157 combat missions in two wars.
n An avid outdoorsman at home fly fishing in Alaska or scuba diving in the Gulf of Mexico.
n A Porsche enthusiast who raced in post-war road rallies in Germany.
There will be plenty of stories Friday, all right.
“He’d have loved it,” his son said.
“Dad was a character,” his daughter said.
That’s evident, particularly judging from the incredible aftermath of Price’s 57th and final mission with the 510th Fighter Squadron during World War II.
On April 11, 1945, his P-47 Thunderbolt was shot down by ground fire over Germany’s Ruhr Valley.
Price was a POW -- all of 11 days.
Captured by a German unit retreating from the advancing Allies, the Ridgefield Park, N.J., native, whose parents retired to Bradenton in the 1940s, showed his moxie four days later.
According to squadron mate Herschel Ponder’s memoirs, Price informed a German officer, “Look, you are my prisoner. I’m not your prisoner. You’re surrounded.”
Outlandish, yes, but it worked.
The Germans knew the end of the war was near, and they wanted to avoid capture by the vengeful Russians and a one-way ticket to Siberia.
“He convinced them, ‘You surrender to me, and I’ll turn you over to the Americans,’” his daughter said.
Price and eight other POWs marched 282 German troops to the U.S. 8th Infantry Division at Wupertal, Germany.
“Here you are a POW, and they’re coming to you to save them,” his son said.
Price, who received the Distinguished Flying Cross among many other commendations, spent 27 years in the USAF -- he was credited with two air kills in WWII and the Korean War -- and closed his storied career as a squadron commander at Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City.
“We were in the boat every weekend, and he taught my sister (Barbara) and I to water ski and scuba dive,” his daughter said.
Price was an adventurous spirit.
Besides fishing in Alaska and road racing in Germany -- Price had quite a Porsche collection -- he even went diamond mining in Guyana.
“He always wanted to do something. He never wanted to stay put,” his son said. “He loved flying. That was his thing.”
Price would later become a flying instructor at Jones Aviation at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, which was like his second home.
It’s where he learned to fly before WWII.
“He talked about flying over Longboat Key when there was nothing there,” his daughter said. “He’d land there, strip, go swimming, come back, dry off, put his clothes back on and fly off.”
Price also is survived by his son, Howard II; his daughter, Barbara; four grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.