EARLY — Seventy-three years after her pilot husband was shot down and killed in World War II, Norma Riker continues to honor his memory.
    First Lt. David Riker’s body was never recovered, and he was presumed dead after the B-24 bomber — on which Riker flew as co-pilot — was shot down by the Germans while flying over Budapest, Hungary on April 13, 1944. Riker was flying on just his third mission.
    Norma Riker, who went on to raise two children as a war widow, never considered marrying again. A Brown County native, Riker now lives at the Chatfield Assisted Living facility.
    Riker, accompanied by her nieces — Barbara Rodgers of Blanket and Pat Locks Krenek of Brownwood — attended the Memorial Day observance at Eastlawn Memorial Park. Later Riker and her nieces visited the grave of Riker’s cousin, World War II fighter ace and Brownwood native Jack Bradley, who died in 1990.
    Riker held a small American flag as Krenek placed another small flag near Bradley’s tombstone. Riker talked about her late husband, and the three women explained what Memorial Day has meant to them.
    David Riker, who was from Illinois, was stationed at Camp Bowie before going to Europe to fly bombers in World War II.
    Riker isn’t sure what happened to her husband’s bomber. According to a July 2008 Bulletin article, the bomber was based in Italy and attached to the 15th Army Air Corps.
    “It’s been a terrific blow to my whole world ever since he’s been gone,” Riker said.
    She said people have asked her if she ever remarried. “I never found anyone to replace him,” she said.
    Riker said her memories of her husband remain vivid. “Oh, very much so,” she said. She thinks of him daily and remembers “how much I cared for him.”
    Memorial Day is “very, very meaningful,” Riker said.
    “The beauty of our nation is the way we are loyal, not only to the soldiers, but to the service that they gave, and continue to give,” said Krenek, whose father was an Army captain.
    In July 2008, Riker caught the Bulletin’s attention and she was featured in an article published on July 4 of that year. The article highlighted Riker’s patriotism in posting 98 American flags along her fence.
    The Fourth of July and Memorial Day are special holidays for Riker,  she said in the 2008 article.
    “I never miss a Memorial Day service,” Riker said then. “It has very special meaning to me. Remembering my husband is a constant thing with me.”
    Riker also noted in the 2008 article that the speaker for that year’s Memorial Day observance, retired Navy Chaplain Jim Looby, had said “this is not a day for buying.”
    “What a wonderful statement,” Riker said.