The Last Word: Conrad John Netting IV

A closer look at some of the intriguing, inspiring and imaginative folks who are the heart of the AICPA.

Partner, Netting & Pace, CPAs
San Antonio, Texas

MY FATHER, CONRAD JOHN NETTING III, was an Army Air Corps pilot who died four days after D-Day in a mission over France. Flying a P-51 “Mustang” fighter, he crashed while destroying a German fuel convoy. I was born six weeks later in San Antonio. My mother never withheld anything about my father, but I didn’t ask many questions about him; in those days, a lot of children were in the same situation.

I MAJORED IN ACCOUNTING at the University of Texas. After two years in the Army, I got a master’s in accounting at Texas A&M University, passed the CPA exam and worked at what was then Ernst & Ernst. I opened my own firm in San Antonio, and we recently celebrated our 30th anniversary.

ON INDEPENDENCE DAY 1994, my cousins and I met at my mother’s home. She had died a year and a half earlier. We found my father’s Army footlocker, perfectly sealed, in the garage attic. Inside were all his medals, uniforms, flight log, personal effects and, most important, the letters he had written to my mother and she had written to him every day for two years during their courtship and marriage. She had never mentioned it to me, but this was obviously her closure.

WE LOCATED THE WINGMAN who flew with my father on the day he died. I got to interview him in Florida for 10 or 12 hours, and that fleshed out the part of the book where my dad was stationed in England and in training. My son, Conrad V, and I traveled to England and saw the former airfield they had flown from.

BUT THE REAL SURPRISE came eight years after we opened the footlocker, when my wife, Pauleen, and I received a letter from France. The first sentence was, “My father was a carpenter who made the casket for your brave father’s burial.” Somebody in his village had kept a piece of the plane that had part of my father’s name on it. They were very honored by this pilot who had given his life to save their village, but along the way had forgotten his last name.

THE FRENCH CARPENTER’S SON had searched through thousands of names in the cemetery until he found my father’s full name. Then he sent a letter to Army Records in St. Louis under the Freedom of Information Act, and got my father’s old address in San Antonio. Then he found me on the Internet and just sent a blind letter. We called him and his family, and they had a daughter who spoke English.

THEY PLANNED A PERMANENT MEMORIAL to my father in their village and invited us to attend a dedication ceremony. I said, “When are you planning to have it?” and they said, “April 15.” I said, “Hmm, can you move that date?” That June, my whole family, seven of us, flew over there for the dedication.

WHEN ALL THE PIECES FELL INTO PLACE, the story just cried out to be written down in some way that could be handed down to my children and grandchildren. Then more people expressed an interest, and so it turned into this book, Delayed Legacy.

OUR FIRM TAKES CARE OF FAMILIES —mostly their finances, but there’s a box of tissues in my conference room, because sometimes we get off money into family situations and multigenerational issues. That phrase: “Take care of.” The carpenter’s son said his father took care of my father’s remains. My father’s wingman said, “I took care of his belongings.” So I felt that this mantle was being passed to me to take care of that legacy.

—As told to Paul Bonner


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