It was a reunion of monumental proportions. Henry Conner and Wes Bower had not seen each other in 69 years. The two were childhood friends in Troutville and lived on Stoney Battery Road. With the help of relatives and Bower’s determination, the two reconnected. Both attended Troutville High School during the early years of WWII. Now in their 80’s, the pair reunited recently at a Montvale restaurant.
The war changed how the two would live. Bower is a Marine Veteran who fought on Iwo Jima. Conner joined the Marine Air Corps and flew in a Hellcat fighter as a tail gunner in the Pacific Theater of War. In the sixty nine years in between, both married and raised families, had careers and good lives. Said Bower, “I figured we didn’t have too much time to see each other again.” After several attempts and through the help of Conner’s daughter, the two were able to reunite in Bedford.
Bower retired as a Lieutenant in the Roanoke City Police Department and still lives in the Blue Ridge area. He raised two sons and has several grandchildren. He headed up the security detail for Elvis Presley when the famed iconic rock and roll idol would come to Roanoke. He is active and goes to many Veterans events.
Conner went to college on the GI bill at William and Mary and also achieved a Master’s Degree. He married Martha Fauber and raised four children. He began his education career as a teacher at Asbury School in Botetourt, Troutville and then Eagle Rock High School. Eventually he moved to Nelson County, taught and became the School Superintendent. He is retired and still lives with his wife in Nelson County.
The two discussed the good old days over food at Mamma’s in Montvale. Cousins Steve Young and Larry Firebaugh and several other friends and relatives attended the reunion, to listen to the two chat. To hear men of the greatest generation talk of walking the rural roads of Botetourt County, playing in fields and school yards over 75 years ago was amazing.
When they left Troutville High School and entered the war, they never crossed paths again. Conner brought his annual from the class of 1943 as a reminder of their youth. The end of the War sent them into different worlds as it did for many returning GI’s. But for a moment in time, they were kids again. The good old days and even though America was in the Great Depression, then World War II, they had fond memories to trade of growing up in Botetourt County.