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U.S. News
Jane Waldie Wrenshall: Sister of Flight 11 victim

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

By Cristina Rouvalis, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

When she imagines the last minutes of her brother's life, Jane Waldie Wrenshall sees him sitting toward the back of American Flight 11, reading, oblivious to the fact that hijackers had rushed the cockpit.

Jane Waldie Wrenshall lost her brother, Kenneth Waldie, in the crash of American Flight 11 into the World Trade Center last Sept. 11. He is shown in the picture she is holding at the top of a group of four Raytheon Corp. employees who died that day. (Steve Mellon, Post-Gazette)

Maybe Kenneth E. Waldie Jr., who grew up in Bethel Park, didn't know that something was terribly wrong right before his plane slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

"At least I want to think that," said Wrenshall in her Ingomar living room.

Wrenshall, who works for USAirways customer service, clings to that tiny comfort in the face of overwhelming sorrow.

Jane said her mother, Eileen, who lives in Bethel Park, told her, "I'm OK as long as I tell people he was on Flight 11." It's when she goes one step further -- and says that he died on Flight 11 -- that it gets to her.

Wrenshall and her mother stayed in Pittsburgh when her brother moved in the mid-1980s to Methuen, Mass. The big extended Irish Catholic family has always gotten together for holidays on Martha's Vineyard. This year, they will be left with only memories of the fourth of the five athletic Waldie kids.

Waldie, who was 46 when he died, was a star swimmer who placed second in the 100-yard freestyle in the 1973 WPIAL competition, recalls his friend and fellow swimmer Terry Crump.

"If you were going against Mt. Lebanon and their best swimmer was there, he would swim against him," said Crump, his friend since they were 8.

Waldie also swam at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he graduated in 1978 and was class president for three terms.

He got married, raised four children and became a senior engineer at Raytheon, a Massachusetts-based company that does defense and government electronics projects. He wore black sneakers to work, stretching the company's dress code, and loved giving people nicknames. Ironically, Wrenshall says, his nickname at work was "9-11" because he was the troubleshooter.

The man who worked out every day was loyal to the Steelers in Patriot-happy New England and refereed basketball games. Devoted to his children, he attended their many games and practices. He was so supportive of his daughter, Meredith, a high school basketball star with the No. 44 on her jersey, that the team nicknamed him "44 1/2."

"At least his children knew him -- what he stood for," Wrenshall said. "Hopefully that will carry them through."

Wrenshall is heartened by the many prayers and tributes to her brother -- the marble statue at Raytheon for the four employees who died on 9/11 and the Massachusetts baseball fields named after him.

Crump and other high school friends are establishing The Ken Waldie Memorial Fund, and are holding a charity golf outing on Sept. 22 as a fund-raiser. They have asked the Bethel Park School Board to name the pool after him. (The board is considering the request, but first has to adopt a policy on the issue of memorials).

Wrenshall is saddened that rescuers never found any personal belongings from her younger brother.

"I wish they would have found one thing."

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