Memories will be almost overwhelming for Frances Andalora when she sees the USS Croaker submarine during Memorial Day services today.
She has seen only one other sub in her 89 years.
That was 45 years ago, when she received an invitation to the commissioning of the USS Charr, a submarine that was going to take her oldest son to battle against the Japanese.
That memory has never left her and until only a couple of weeks ago, neither did the invitation.
On Mother's Day, Mrs. Andalora decided the time had come to give the invitation she had cherished for so many years to her former sailor son, Robert.
"When she gave me that invitation," Andalora said this week, "she also told me she was ready to look at another sub and would like to go with me to the Memorial Day services our submarine group was going to have at Naval Park."
When the ceremonies begin at 10:30 a.m., Mrs. Andalora will be surrounded by her family and veterans and widows of veterans who served aboard submarines during World War II.
Her son and his comrades in the Niagara Region Grenadier Chapter of Submarine Veterans of World War II will pay particular homage to the sailors aboard the 52 subs lost during the war.
"As the name of each sub is called out a bell will toll," Andalora explained. "Then, one of the widows will throw a floral wreath in the water while all of the other widows throw a single rose in the water. We are trying to keep alive the memory of the many men from Western New York who served on the submarines."
Recalling that day long ago in New London, Conn., where the USS Charr was commissioned, Mrs. Andalora remembered that "I knew my son was going out to sea . . . to places where the ship could be destroyed and never come to the surface again. From there on, all I could do was pray to God to keep him safe and bring him back.
"Bob didn't like school and he wanted to go in the service, but he was only 17 and he couldn't get in unless he had our signatures," she recalled. "I was against it but his father said to me, 'He won't go to school and there is no use in him being out on the streets so I am going to sign.' And he did."
"Then, Bob decided he wanted to be in the submarines, but I didn't know anything about it until after he signed up for that school. When the invitation came to see the sub commissioned, it was another surprise, but I went along with my sister and my younger son, who was only 12. It was a very impressive ceremony."
Andalora credits that decision to go to sub school as "a real lucky one."
"I had been waiting two years for those orders to go to sub school. I was in Pearl Harbor when, finally, on Nov. 27, 1941, the orders came through and I left for school. Ten days later, Pearl Harbor was bombed."
Mrs. Andalora said that she "prays often that we stay out of war. I could never go through what I went through then."
Andalora, who completed high school after his discharge from the Navy, is now retired from the Erie County Department of Environmental Planning.