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416th Bombardment Group (L)
Ralph Francis "Rafe" Conte Sr.
8 May 1917 - 1 Apr 2016
670th and 669th Bomb Squadrons
Columbia Daily Tribune Online Obituary
In the Fall of 2005, a new pathway in life appeared before me totally out of the blue. Through one of those strange interventions that some refer to as sychronicity, I was introduced to Ralph Conte and the 416th Bomb Group. That brush with fate turned out to be not just an experience, but an event. Through Ralph's book Attack Bombers We Need You! A History of the 416th Bomb Group, and subsequent telephone calls, personal meetings and video interviews with Ralph, I became enthralled with a group of young men that I had no physical connection to. More than ten years later, the relationship has grown beyond any possible expectation and has become for me an ongoing adventure. Along that path, the 416th Bomb Group Archive was formed with the blessing, cooperation and full support of the amazing 416th veterans and family. Ralph Conte was a generous contributor to the Archive in many ways, but perhaps most significantly in the donation of his WWII memorabilia, personal military records, photographs and much of the research material that went into his writing of Attack Bombers We Need You!.
Ralph was born to lead and he played an important role in helping to preserve the cohesiveness of the 416th family through its annual post-war reunions. Our first meeting face-to-face was at the gated community in Columbia, Missouri where Ralph and his wife Norma welcomed Doris and me for an enlightening introduction to 416th history. Ralph was eminently qualified to do that, being a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart. At that time, Norma's health was already failing and they were unable to travel, but they stayed closely connected to the Group. After Norma passed away in 2009, Ralph became active again in attending reunions and in 2010 introduced us to Margy Harrison, who subsequently became Margy Harrison Conte. Ralph and Margy graced several reunions with their attendance before Ralph's declining health intervened.
It was the nature of Ralph Conte to conquer adversity. He did that to the very end, bouncing back from crisis after crisis in his final days. He was 98 years old when that spirit finally conceded. He will be long remembered by many in the 416th family who were yet to be born when he was serving in England and France. That in itself is testament to the man he was.
Wayne G. Sayles
The 416th Bomb Group Archive acknowledges with sincere appreciation donations from the following that have been made to the Archive in memory of Ralph Conte.
- Dave Andrews
- Rick and Chris Prucha
- Wayne and Doris Sayles
- Maria Sgamboti and family
The Conte family has also suggested that memorial contributions can be made in Ralph’s memory to Central Missouri Honor Flight, 1400 Forum Blvd., Suite 1-C, Box 334, Columbia, Mo., 65203; Mid-Missouri Alzheimer’s Association Greater Missouri, 2400 Bluff Creek Drive, Columbia, Mo., 65201; or to a charity of the donor’s choice.
"Goin' Home" courtesy of the U.S. Air Force Band