Two lifelong friends and honorable members of the Tuskegee Airmen died on the same day in their respective Los Angeles homes at the age of 91.
Clarence E. Huntley Jr. and Joseph Shambrey both enlisted for the army as teenagers in 1942. They served as mechanics for the 100th Fighter Squadron in the Army Air Force’s 332nd Fighter Group, which later became known as the famed all-black squadron called the Tuskegee Airmen.
They both died on Jan. 5, both at the age of 91. Their families described them as devout patriots who cared for their colleagues and stayed close with them after wartime.
Huntley — who serviced Mustang, Aircobra and Thunderbolt fighters aircraft — was crew chief, making him responsible for the captain’s plane.
“The life of his pilot was in his hands, and he took that very seriously,” Huntley’s nephew told the Daily Mail.
In fact, Huntley’s concern was so great that Capt. Andrew Turner, the squadron commander, jokingly nicknamed him “Mother.”
Although the Tuskegee Airmen proudly served their country, they were not immune to racism. Shambrey’s son, Tim, remembered a story his father had told him about an incident in Alabama where white troops were greeted with handshakes and free coffee.
“When he and his buddies came off, dressed in their uniforms, of course they didn’t get any congratulations,” Tim said, adding that they were told to pay for their coffee. “The thing about those men is that they were very proud and decided not to make a fuss.
“They were already used to so much discrimination.”
In their later years, Shambrey worked with the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation while Huntley was a skycap for more than 60 years at airports in Los Angeles and Burbank, California.
Although Shambrey didn’t speak much about his experience in war, he did host a few barbecues and invited a lot of his old Army comrades. Huntley’s daughter, Shelia McGee, told the Daily Mail that her father didn't speak much about his time in war either. He would say “I was doing what I was supposed to do, and that was to serve my country.”