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Veteran of WWII Battle of Okinawa celebrates 96 years

Summit Lake’s Joe Konyndyk celebrated his 96th birthday on June 23, thanks to his son and daughter-in-law, with cake and ice cream. There were several former members from the Summit Lake Church, a few local neighbors and me. I drove up that morning from Albuquerque, spending half an hour with Joe and his wife Merna before guests arrived, and had a fun time.

Joe is the last living crew member of the USS Landing Craft Support (L) (3) 18 ship. Along with five other LCSs Joe had pictures of, it was part and parcel of the “Mighty Midget” ships (along with about 56 other “Mighty Midget” ships of various kinds) that fought in the South Pacific in World War II. They were heavily armored ships that helped fend off the Japanese kamikaze aircraft that were attempting to destroy our ships around Okinawa. (See “Sole Survivor,” The Cortez Journal, Jan. 19, 2019 by Erika Alvero.)

The U.S. Navy really has a great volunteer support team who put out a publication called “Underway: The Landing Craft Support Museum Newsletter,” written and edited by Dennis Steenbergen, with the help of his wife Bonnie, the treasurer of the newsletter, who live in the Denver area. The newsletter covers the history of these important ships and the dedicated sailors who manned them during World War II.

Joe has been very involved with the Veterans of Foreign Wars and many other activities in the towns of Mancos, Cortez and Dolores. It was a pleasure being his neighbor for the 20 years we lived five doors east of Joe and his family. A true friend.

Don Hendricks

Albuquerque, N.M.