AN IMPENETRABLE fog clogged the North Sea that November of 1951, as the USS General M.L. Hersey was on its way to Bremerhaven, Germany, with elements of the 43rd Infantry Division.
Suddenly, a rending crash rocked the troopship as it plowed into the Argentine cruise ship MS Maipo.
Maipo sank three hours later, but while it foundered the crew of the Hersey and the soldiers aboard frantically sought to pull the 238 passengers of the Maipo to safety.
Fortunately, everyone made it. There were no serious injuries.
Among the rescuers was a Philadelphia soldier named Howard Robert Thurston.
Bob Thurston served in the Army from 1951 to 1953 during the Korean War, but he spent his time in Germany as a postmaster.
He was born and raised in Philadelphia and spent 50 years here before moving to Florida in 1979. He died in his home in Port Orange, Fla., April 6 at the age of 79.
Bob was born to John Edward Thurston and the former Marie Hipple. He attended Claghorn Elementary and Mastbaum High.
In his early years, he was employed by Bond Bread, Harbison's Milk and later Virnelson's Bakery and the New York Bagel Bakery in Philadelphia.
In Florida, he worked for Volusia Repairs Fire & Home Restoration. He retired in 2006.
"He was a dependable working man his whole life," said his daughter Kimberly Martin. "He was a loving and devoted husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.
"Anyone who met Bob was immediately struck by how much he loved his family and how proud he was of his beautiful wife and all of his daughters and how much each of them meant to him."
Bob enjoyed singing, and loved to sing to his three daughters. He was a fan of Frank Sinatra and Johnny Cash, liked watching western movies and football. He was a big Dallas Cowboys fan. And after moving to Florida, took to NASCAR racing.
He married the former Mary Jane Wotopka in 1963.
Besides his wife and daughter, he is survived by two other daughters, Marie Elaina Allard and Darlene Piccola; five children by a previous marriage - Linda McAfee, Cindy Mock, Dorothy Thurston, Robert and Gary Thurston; two brothers, Raymond and Stanley Thurston; 10 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.