Mt. Fuji Crash Kills Cape Couple

Bill Hollenbeck 01I’m always amazed at how difficult it it to go directly from Point A to Point B without side trips to Point Q and Point Z. I was scanning a box of random prints when I found this yellowing picture of workers putting up a traffic signal.

The building looked sort of familiar, and the creek and turn lanes made me think it might be the intersection of William and Kingshighway. I did a quick check for Bill Hollenbeck in the 1968 and 1979 Cape Girardeau City Directories didn’t find a listing. I set the print aside for future research.

Couple dies in plane crash

1966-03-05 Hollenbeck CrashI found a print of another subject that had a date on the back, and turned to Google News Archives to see if the picture had run in The Missourian on or around the date. There were some holes in the database, so I expanded my scrolling until this headline jumped out.

The March 5, 1966, story said “A Cape Girardeau businessman, Bill C. Hollenbeck and his wife were apparently killed early today in the crash of the British jetliner at the foot of Mount Fujiyama near Tokyo, Japan.

The Hollenbecks were among a group of 75 Americans on a tour of the Far East as guests of the Thermo King Corp. of Minneapolis, Minn., a manufacturer of truck refrigeration equipment. Mr. Hollenbeck headed the Bill Hollenbeck Co., 2147 William, a vending machine company. He also was in the heating and air conditioning business.

Charlie Harris escaped death

Another Cape Girardeau businessman, Charles N. Harris, actually was awarded the trip as the result of a sales promotion put on by the Thermo King Concern, however it was not convenient for Mr. and Mrs. Harris to be away at the time, so they passed on the opportunity for the tour to Mr. Hollenbeck, a close friend, and his wife. Mr. and Mrs. Harris were at a convention in Biloxi, Miss., when notified of the apparent death of his friends.

Hollenbeck family history

The story said that Mr. Hollenbeck, about 50 years old, had been in business here for many years. [The squishy information with words like “about” and “many” indicates that Judy Crow must not have found any hard information on Hollenbeck in the files.]

His wife, about 52 years old, was the former Miss Laveta Martin. She is survived by two brothers, Nelson Martin and Clyde Martin, Cape Girardeau, and a sister, Mrs. Leslie Braig, Clearwater, Fla. The Martin family was originally of the Fruitland area. The Hollenbecks had no children and neither had living parents.

Since the crash was in 1966, that would explain why I couldn’t find a Hollenbeck listing in the later city directories.




16 Replies to “Mt. Fuji Crash Kills Cape Couple”

  1. How ironic. I was watching Amazing Race this evening and the contestants were in Japan and Mt. Fuji was in the background in one scene. All I could think of at that moment was how beautiful it was and it brought immediately to my mind this terrible crash that killed the Hollenbeck’s. So sad this tragedy claimed theirs and so many other lives.

  2. It was almost at the corner of William and Kingshighway, it was at the corner of William and Linda Street. It is now the location of the CVS Pharmacy. I think Linda Street has been abandon by the city.

  3. I remember this well, the Hollenbeck’s lived up Oaks Hills Drive for us. I thin my dad still refers to the house as “The Hollenbeck’s” old house when I was in Cape the last time with him in 2013. It was big deal, in a strange way because no one we knew was ever was in the national news. The Hollenbeck’s were BIG news and when the news hits Walter Kronkite then you know it is BIG news. I do remember seeing photo in the day showing the actual plane with Mt. Fuji in the background as it crashed…I think teh vending machine part of his business was on Spanish Street south of Downtown a little…

  4. Mr. Hollenbeck’s business was originally based at 224 S. Spanish Street as Terry recalls. Mrs. Hollenbeck’s brother, Nelson Martin bought a house my dad built on Dorothy Street in 1959. Nelson has a son, Richard, that is a couple of years older than I, and Richard always had some pinball or coin-operated game machine that we played with in their basement from his uncle’s business. I very clearly remember when the Hollenbecks were killed in that crash. Nelson ended up inheriting the business and the Martins moved from Dorothy Street to the original Oak Hills residence of the Hollenbecks.
    If I remember correctly, Nelson sold the business in 1965 which became Lemon Coin Machine.

  5. Did the Hollenbecks ever live in the 1700 block of Whitener St.? I remember a couple from there dying in a plane crash, but I thought they owned a leather clothing business

  6. I’ve been researching this emotional story for many reasons & for many years. You see, I’m Charles Harris’s granddaughter. My birth coincided with the timing of the Hong Kong trip. My mother pleaded that they cancel plans & stay home, as I was to be the first grandchild born into the family. They soon agreed & my birth is basically why Charles & Connie (my grandmother) relinquished their Hong Kong tickets to the Hollenbecks…their best friends. I learned of the tragedy as a teenager, yet didn’t begin to delve deeper into the story until after my grandparents both passed & it’s affected me. Mom says NO ONE talked about the crash or openly expressed feelings about it…ever. Was probably too painfully conflicting to deal with for the entire family, friends & Cape. On one hand, there was the joy that they got to live & see not just me, but 5 other grandkids born – but the mental anguish of losing their best friends in that manner must’ve pained them so! I’m now 49 & regret never asking my grandparents about this. I’m attempting to write an article or book about this & have collected many facts/articles & have chatted with a few orphans resulting from that tragedy, yet I have little to learn & discover from my own family. Therefore, I now carry my own conflicting emotions as they did too. It’s time for me to write about it…for them.

  7. The Hollenbecks are not my family. But my maternal grandfather’s sister and brother in law were on the same flight. We were talking about it at dinner this evening so i decided to research it. My mom referred to Aunt Marge and I think uncle Ralph. No idea on their last name but woman’s maiden name should have been Kress (same as my grandfather)

  8. Hello everyone –

    I couldn’t be more in awe with the passion & collaborative efforts from people who continue to bring themselves to this project. I am most grateful! It’s emotionally inspiring as we’ve even seen a few families once estranged, now able to come together because of all this. Little by little, we continue to meet new people & receive new information. The global embrace & outreach towards all is palpable. I’m thankful to have met a few new friends along the way too – partners who selflessly keep the supportive ball rolling to recognize & honor our dear family & friends. ** It’s as if this was meant to come together – even though we’re all strangers who might never meet, we have a bond. Our voices have the chance to come together & speak volumes. Our stories have the capability to shed life, light, & love into a memorial deemed honorably accessible for future generations who may attempt to delve into their ancestral roots.
    LASTLY, I’ve dedicated this weekend to organizing all notes & new pieces of information re: BOAC. In fact, I’m almost ready to post a “movie trailer” of sorts with an added storyboard draft. I hope to launch it in the private groups within the next day or so.
    ** If anyone in this conversation feed wants to contact me about anything, I’d love to chat. My email is
    cell: 214-701-1830 home:214-350-0637

  9. I remember March 5, 1966, very well. The Hollenbecks were our next door neighbors. Our street address was 1703 W. Cape Rock Drive. My dad (A. J. Coombs) died on the same day (of lung cancer). We were in St. Petersburg, Florida, when Dad died.

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