© 2023 Peoria Public Radio
A joint service of Bradley University and Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Peoria woman hosts members of Netherlands family who tend her father’s grave

Leonard John Crandell
American Air Museum in Britain
Leonard John Crandell

Jan Crandell Powers never knew her father, Leonard Crandell, a bomber pilot during WWII, killed in March 1945 over Germany.

“The B-24 was hit by enemy fire and crashed in Germany. His body was buried in Margraten in the Netherlands with 8,000 other U.S. soldiers,” said Powers, who wrote about her father growing up in Peoria in “Pieces of Us,” a book published in 2019.

In chronicling her family’s time in Peoria and her father’s military career, Powers did more than compile history. “I have lived my whole life in the same town, Peoria, Illinois,” she wrote. “Yet during my lifetime I have also visited England, Germany, Holland and France, the very same four countries that my father that spent time in, lived in, died in and is now buried in.”

Powers and her husband visited the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten in 1967 and again in 2018. “Every grave in the cemetery has been continually ‘adopted’ by the people of Netherlands. I have known for a long time that the people of Netherlands have been caring for my father’s grave from the very beginning, taking flowers and attending memorial services in his honor for over 70 years,” she noted.

In October 2022, Frans and Marjan Crijnen, members of the Netherlands family that have undertaken the responsibility of tending for Lt. Crandell’s grave, visited the United States. “After a two-week holiday, they came to Peoria where they stayed with my family. What for years has been a white marble cross inscribed with Leonard’s name has taken on a new meaning, a new humanity for everyone,” said Powers.

“All the distances of the past have folded in and all of Leonard’s family and loved ones are now connected into the future,” she said.

Powers and Marjan Crijnen visited with Steve Tarter in the WCBU studios recently to discuss that visit.

We depend on your support to keep telling stories like this one. You – together with donors across the NPR Network – create a more informed public. Fact by fact, story by story. Please take a moment to donate now and fund the local news our community needs. Your support truly makes a difference.

Steve Tarter retired from the Peoria Journal Star in 2019 after spending 20 years at the paper as both reporter and business editor.