Quite a Journey to Get Here

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A graduate of Benedictine Boy’s Military High School in Richmond, VA, Jim McCracken went on to serve with the Virginia National Guard Artillery Unit-eventually attaining the grade of Sergeant.

After the start of World War II, Jim joined the Army Air Corps, where he trained to become a Navigator/Bombardier on the B-17 “Flying Fortress.” Later that year, he was transferred overseas to join the 8th Air Force Squadron in Northern England.

In April 1943, he had a chance to fill in for a fellow Navigator/Bombardier who was nearing the end of his tour. As luck would have it, that first mission for Jim was the last for that B-17. It was hit by enemy fire in a bombing run to Germany, and the crew bailed out rather than chance the long flight over the English Channel. Fate stepped in, and all of the flight crew in the front of the plane survived.

Jim spent the next two years as a prisoner of the German Luftwaffe in Stalag Luft III. He served as one of the camp “penguins,” guys who walked around the compound dropping dirt from escape tunnels. Finally, in April 1945, Stalag Luft III and Jim were liberated by an Army Tank Brigade. The Brigade was led by none other than his brother, Captain Thomas McCracken.

After returning to the United States, Jim found himself in New Orleans. One Saturday night while out with the guys, he noticed a beautiful red head at a nearby table. He asked her to dance again and again.

After a great night of dancing, he asked the lovely Elizabeth Carryl if he could see her the next day. She told him she was Catholic (much to his delight) and would be going to church on Sunday. Jim jumped at the chance to join her. After a brief courtship, he and Beth were married near her home in Miami.

During the next few years the growing family lived in West Virginia; Washington, D.C.; and Miami, while Jim pursued his education in accounting and finance. The couple had three children during this time-son James, daughter Anne, and Tom, their youngest. While going to school, Jim had returned to the Air Force Reserves and became flight crew qualified for the B-25 “Liberator.” After graduating from the University of Miami in the summer of 1950, he joined the air campaign supporting the Korean conflict.

After completing his tour and returning to his family, he decided to continue his career in the Air Force and was moved to Base Administration and Finance. When he retired from the Air Force in 1968, Jim and Beth moved to Fort Lauderdale, FL. One of Jim’s friends was serving as Bankruptcy Trustee to the local Circuit Court at this time. Jim got involved and spent the next almost 20 years in this second career, serving the courts to liquidate hundreds of businesses with aggregate assets in the millions of dollars.

After Beth’s death in May 2003, Jim continued to live alone in his large, Fort Lauderdale home for the rest of the year. Early this year, Jim decided to move to the Gables at Mt. Vernon, an assisted living community in Alexandria, VA. This move allowed Mr. McCracken to be closer to his family; his oldest son lives just four miles from the community and visits often.

Of the Gables, Jim McCraken, Jr. relates, “We were initially drawn to the Gables because it is extremely convenient and close to our world – church, shopping, Knights of Columbus, and the like, which makes it easy to include Dad in family activities.”

He continues, “We have also been impressed with the appearance, ambiance, and prices at the Gables.” Mr. McCraken has quickly become a part of the community at the Gables, and his family is certainly happy to have him close by.

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