Looking back: Rollin and Robert Border – Together forever

Rollin and Robert (right) Border
Rollin and Robert (right) Border

As another Veterans Day approaches, it is that special time to remember and honor the men and woman who have served our country in the armed forces during war and peace.

This Veterans Day “Looking Back” highlights two young brothers Rollin and Robert Border, who grew up on Poplar Way in what was once Alderwood Manor.

Rollin Jarvis Border and his younger brother Robert Dennis Border, the sons of Jarvis and Lillian Border, were both born in Montana — Rollin on October 2, 1938 and Robert, August 5, 1939. Only 10 months apart, they were often mistaken for twins.

The family moved to Washington in 1942 and settled in Alderwood Manor (Lynnwood). Two daughters, Sharon and Shirley, joined the family.

Growing up Rollin and Robert were not just brothers, they were playmates, classmates — buddies. Held back from starting school because of an illness, Rollin entered first grade with his brother at Alderwood Manor Grade School. Together they graduated from grade school, and then went on to Edmonds High School. In 1957 they graduated together with the last graduating class from the original Edmonds High School in downtown Edmonds.

Border Brothers: Robert 5 years amd Rollin 5 years and 10 months (right)
Border Brothers: Robert, 5 years and Rollin, 5 years and 10 months (right)

Still inseparable, Rollin and Robert enlisted in the Navy in 1958. When they each signed up for a four-year-hitch it was with the promise they would always be kept together. They were.

Three years passed; and with just one year left of their naval service their regular station was Guam. In Guam, they were attached to Navy Carrier Air Group No. 14. To this day it is still a mystery to their sisters as to why Rollin and Robert were aboard a Marine transport plane enroute from Atsugi, Japan to Subic Point in the Philippines.

Border Brothers: Rollin,27 months and Robert, 17 months (right)
Border Brothers: Rollin,27 months and Robert, 17 months (right)

It was Thursday, September 22, 1960, when AMH3 Rollin Jarvis Border and AM2 Robert Dennis Border lost their lives while on this flight — together still. Rollin was almost 22 and Robert was 21 years old. For the Border family it was not just one loved one whose life was lost, it was two; two beloved sons — two beloved big brothers.

On that fateful Thursday, far across the Pacific Ocean, the four-engine D-6, Marine Corps transport plane carrying 23 passengers and a crew of six crashed into the sea, 180 miles southeast of Okinawa near Miyako Island. A distress call was received from the plane at 2:08 p.m. reporting that one of the plane’s four engines was on fire and they were ditching into the sea. The plane was believed to have exploded on impact.

An American destroyer reached the site of the crash where some debris and bodies were found, but Rollin and Robert were lost in the ocean; their remains never recovered. There were no survivors. Perhaps big brother Rollin was holding tightly to the hand of his little brother Robert as they made their final journey — still together.

Rollin and Robert’s mother Lillian Border was alone at the family’s home on Lynnwood’s Poplar Way when a Navy chaplain came to her door with the sad news of the death of her two sons. A short while later father Jarvis Border received the news at his General Electric work place.

A memorial service was held for Rollin and Robert Border on Sunday, October 2, 1960 at the Alderwood Manor Community Church of Lynnwood. Government-issue memorial markers for the two brothers are in place at Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery in Seattle.

Even though it has been over 54 years since Sharon and Shirley lost their two big brothers, the memories have never faded — Rollin and Robert are always remembered with love — and with sadness.

– By Betty Lou Gaeng

A long-time resident of Lynnwood, Betty Lou Gaeng is a genealogist, historian, researcher and writer who is active in volunteer work for Lynnwood’s Heritage Park Partners Advisory Committee and the Alderwood Manor Heritage Association at Heritage Park. She is also a member of the League of Snohomish County Heritage Organizations (LOSCHO) and the South County Historical Society and Museum. Gaeng is the author of two books: “Etched in Stone,” which is the history of the Edmonds Museum memorial monument, and “Chirouse” about a Catholic missionary priest who came from France to Washington Territory in 1847 and became a father figure and friend to the Puget Sound area’s Native people.

  1. Rollin and Robert Border will never be forgotten, nor will the 26 others aboard that aircraft. Rest in peace gents, we have the watch.

    -Alan Stinar
    Marine Corps Air Transport Association

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