|Birth: ||Jul. 6, 1972|
|Death: ||Jan. 9, 2002, Afghanistan|
Capt. Matthew William Bancroft: FAMILY MOURNS LOST SON Marine pilot loved serving his country: Newspaper Obituary and Death Notice
Redding Record Searchlight (CA) - January 11, 2002
Deceased Name: Capt. Matthew William Bancroft: FAMILY MOURNS LOST SON Marine pilot loved serving his country
A war half a world away forced Capt. Matthew William Bancroft to miss his 9-month-old daughter Maddie's first Christmas.
There was no reason to believe there wouldn't be other holidays -- many of them -- for Bancroft, his wife, two stepsons and daughter.
On Wednesday, everything changed when a plane Bancroft was flying crashed into a mountainside in Pakistan, killing him along with six other U.S. Marines.
Mourning family members Thursday remembered Bancroft, 29, who grew up in Burney, as a man of morals who had traveled the world and loved flying his giant KC-130.
Tall, straight and proud, said father Bob Bancroft of Redding, a Navy veteran, in a voice that ended with a sob. That was my son. That's how he went down. Born in Milwaukie, Ore., Matthew Bancroft was just 4 when his family moved to Burney, a mountain town 50 miles east of Redding. It was the perfect town to raise a son, said the pilot's mother, Beverly Bancroft. And it was perfect for Mat-thew, who loved hunting, fishing and camping.
He was so proud of Bur-ney, she said. He called it God's country. Watching U.S. Naval Academy and Dallas Cowboys star Roger Staubach toss touchdown passes, Bancroft made up his mind early to at-tend that academy and be-come a pilot.
If school was any indication, he had the brains for it. By seventh grade, he was taking ninth-grade algebra. By 11th grade, he was taking classes through the University of California at Berkeley. He was a great debater, Beverly Bancroft said, and didn't shy away from arguing grades with his teachers. We were very proud of him, remembered Bancroft's fourth-grade teacher, Larry Hutchinson, now principal of Burney High School. He was a very talented young man.
But it didn't stop in the classroom. Bancroft played basketball (he was 6 feet, 4 inches tall), baseball and foot-ball, snagging all-league honors. And he was student-body president his senior year. The biggest achievement came in 1990, when Bancroft graduated from Burney High School and was nominated for the U.S. Naval Academy by U.S. Rep. Wally Herger, R-Marysville. He was like a little kid, his mother recalled. Just jumping up and down -- 'I made it, I made it!' Just two weeks after his high school graduation, the 17-year-old Bancroft found himself in Annapolis, Md., 3,000 miles from home. But he was ready, his family said. He graduated in 1994 and got his wings in 1996, his father said. The family has a framed self-portrait photograph of Bancroft flying high in the sky, oxygen mask over his face. He had achieved his biggest goal. Everything Matt dreamed of, he did, Beverly Bancroft said. He was commissioned with the U.S. Marines and saw the world, traveling to Africa, Iceland and Italy. He always said how lucky he was, she said. He said he had the best job in the world. Bancroft's duties with the Marines, set to end in October, were extended, partly due to Sept. 11, his family said. He came home when he could. The last time was for his younger sister Sarah's wedding in November. Thanksgiving was the last holiday the family shared together. Bancroft went to the war in December, one month earlier than expected. He wanted to be part of the team, his father said. Thursday, Bancroft's widow, MaryEllen, huddled with her 9-month-old daughter and two sons as her sister spoke on her behalf at their Tierrasanta home.
We all loved him dearly. My sister is just devastated, said Martha Vazquez of Monterey. He loved his family, took such good care of them. But he loved his country, too. And his country took him, Vazquez said, dissolving into tears.
At Miramar Marine Corps Air Station on Thursday, members of the Raiders, the squadron Bancroft flew with, remembered their friend. Capt. Chip Kolbe talked of Bancroft, whom he roomed with in Newport Beach when Bancroft was single.
He was a super guy, a funny guy. He liked to laugh, he liked to do a lot of sports, said Kolbe, who often went snowboarding and surfing with Bancroft. Capt. J.P. Pelligrino, a veteran pilot with the Raiders, remembered his friend of 11 years. He recalled once, when he was in Hawaii, that Bancroft showed up to his home in El Toro to help Pelligrino's wife and 1-year-old gather their belongings and evacuate as a wind-driven fire threatened the home. He was the kind of guy who'd help people out without even being asked, said Pelligrino, who attended the U.S. Naval Academy with Bancroft.
Bancroft leaves behind his wife; stepsons Sean Johnson, 13, and Christian Johnson, 12; and Maddie, who was named after her father.
News of the tragedy spread quickly through Burney, a timber town of a few thousand people in eastern Shasta County.
I'm feeling pretty bad about it, said 53-year-old Vietnam veteran Jerry Joiner of Burney. He made the ultimate sacrifice.
The Bancrofts' phone rang nonstop Thursday as family members and friends called to offer condolences. The couple found out about the crash Wednesday afternoon when Matthew Bancroft's wife called with the news.
Thursday morning Beverly Bancroft carefully placed a few photographs and newspaper clippings on a coffee table. It wasn't enough for such a large life, they say.
The Bancrofts say they want to know what happened Wednesday. Bob Bancroft called his son a darned good pilot.
They figure their son wouldn't want accolades.
He was just a guy doing his job, and he loved it, Bob Bancroft said. A hero? I'll leave that up to everyone else.
The San Diego Union-Tribune contributed to this report.
Reporter Alex Breitler can be reached at 225-8344 or at email@example.com.
CONDOLENCES: Beverly Ban-croft, right, mother of U.S. Marine Capt. Matthew Bancroft, gets a hug from her neighbor Shirley Davis on Thursday in Redding. Matthew Bancroft, a 1990 Burney High School graduate, was killed Wednesday when a plane he was fly-ing crashed into a mountain in Pakistan. ON THE PHONE: Bob Bancroft, father of Matthew Bancroft, talks on the phone with a reporter from the The Washington Post on Thursday while his daughter Sarah Smay, Matthew Bancroft's sister, holds her daughter, 5-month-old Rylie. Family members found out Wednesday afternoon about the plane crash that killed Matthew Bancroft.
R-S Photos by Michael Burke Author: Alex Breitler
2002, Redding Record Searchlight (CA)
Arlington National Cemetery
Plot: Section 60 Site 8015
Created by: Hope
Record added: Aug 02, 2006
Find A Grave Memorial# 15122465