Parallel lives of WWII heroes, chapter brothers and their families span 80 years
A chapter already steeped in Phi Psi tradition; history is being made at Pennsylvania Alpha. It is a place where brothers who have committed their loyalty — and their lives — to the organization and our country are home at last.
In the Summer 2023 issue of The Shield, we reported the discovery of a WWII pilot’s remains — a fantastic story on its own, and yet there’s a sequel! Another brother, Charles (Chuck) Reynolds W&J ‘39, was reported missing in 1943.
1st Lt. Reynolds and 1st Lt. William (Bill) Montgomery W&J ‘38 had more in common than their rank in the military. They were chapter brothers who played basketball together, which The Shield (Jan. 1940) recorded: “Bill Montgomery, Al Skinner W&J ‘39, and Art Marston W&J ‘39 were also varsity men. Chuck Reynolds was high scorer with sixteen points in the first basketball game of the year…”.
Both served their country as pilots in World War II. Their similarities did not end there, as fate and the fight against fascism took them to foreign shores.
Reynolds, stationed in New Guinea, crashed his B-25 plane into a lagoon and was last seen waving to his comrades from its wing. Presumed alive in the jungles of the Pacific, he was never heard from again.
Montgomery flew his B-24H bomber over France and received Nazi air fire. He sputtered to England in his smoking plane, which fell to the earth near Arundel castle. His crew parachuted to safety, saved by the pilot’s skill and heroism.
Both lieutenants made the ultimate sacrifice. Neither came home. Their next mention in The Shield would be in Chapter Eternal. Until enhanced scientific testing in 2023 revealed and confirmed their identities.
Digging posed challenges, as Montgomery’s plane had impacted the English turf so hard, it buried him to an unreachable depth. Awaiting his journey home, a rosette was placed at the site bearing a Phi Psi mantra, “United by Friendship, Sustained by Honor, Led by Truth, We Live and Flourish.”
When the excavation uncovered Montgomery’s remains, DNA and his Fraternity signet ring positively identified him.
Meanwhile, scientists analyzed a tomb for an unidentified American soldier in the Philippines, and the results confirmed they had also recovered Lt. Reynolds! The friends would finally come home — and within the same calendar year.
Lt. Mongomery was honored on September 13, 2023, receiving full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. SWGP Bob Marchesani Butler ‘94 (IUP‘79) and Duncan Forsyth Esq. W&J ‘71, attended the ceremony. They were able to meet Montgomery’s nephew and namesake, Bill, and present him with the Military Shield of Honor. After Bill received a copy of The Shield last fall, he called HQ to thank us for honoring his uncle. “I am really moved to have such a wonderful piece about him in the magazine, and to have Phi Psi members attend the service and receive the medal … it’s overwhelming. Thank you!”
Marchesani, too, was overwhelmed, “It was a true honor to attend Brother Montgomery’s service. What an unforgettable experience.” Less than a week later, he read and reported to HQ the account of Lt. Reynolds’ remains — another Phi Psi from the same chapter!
When Matt Gariano W&J ‘22 and Nick Reeping W&J ‘22 learned about their lost chapter brothers, they were compelled to attend Reynold’s ceremony in late September. Brothers Gariano and Reeping met through wrestling as freshmen at Washington & Jefferson and pledged Phi Psi together — a camaraderie in sports and brotherhood, much like the lieutenants.
In Bridgeport, Ohio, Reynolds’ hometown, people lined the streets to wave American flags while the funeral procession rolled by. Congregating at a local funeral home, veterans, family members and the two young chapter brothers rose to speak in Reynolds’ honor. The family shared immense gratitude at the turn out.
Charles Marty, Lt Reynold’s nephew and namesake, told those gathered how he was born on Memorial Day, 1949, when the family had finally come to accept the loss of their relative. He recounted the story of how Uncle Chuck slouched during the enlisting process so that he would not exceed the height limit for pilots. Such was his dedication to the cause.
Gariano and Reeping realized they had experienced something bigger than themselves, looking at the broader scope of service to others. “The ceremony gave me a sense of selflessness. Like Lt. Reynolds, you can impact people’s lives,” Reeping said.
Gariano agreed, saying the ceremony aligned with Phi Psi’s value of “becoming a better person.”
The lives of these young men — then and now — indeed reflect the camaraderie and loyalty of Phi Psi. Their stories span generations and will be forever chronicled as part of our rich history and certainly will live on at Pennsylvania Alpha.
Gariano and Reeping didn’t realize their parallels with the lieutenants. Their similarities played out before there was knowledge of them. Likewise, neither nephew was aware of the resemblance in their legacies — both being namesakes of long-lost, but never forgotten, war heroes.
History plays out before our eyes and often repeats, while our brotherhood remains steadfast. That’s what Fraternity is: a living story.