mike koozmin/the s.f. examinerVisiting hours: Marie Anglin Widner

mike koozmin/the s.f. examinerVisiting hours: Marie Anglin Widner

Sisters of fugitives visit Alcatraz 50 years later

Marie Anglin Widner and Mearl Anglin Taylor both believe their brothers, John and Clarence, successfully escaped from Alcatraz 50 years ago — and they say they have proof.

Every Christmas until their mother died in 1973, hand-written notes were delivered to the house, Widner said. Additionally, John Anglin — the older of the two — would make leather wallets with intricate designs while at Alcatraz. Several years after the escape, Widner said, a leather horse figurine with a similar pattern was sent to older brother Alfred, with a note inside from John.

“Only John knew that design,” Widner said. “I always believed they made it, and I’ve not changed my mind.”
And the family still believes the brothers attended their mother’s funeral, dressed as women.

The sisters made the trek from Georgia with two of Widner’s sons Monday to celebrate their brothers and the infamous escape from the former federal penitentiary. The visit was Taylor’s first to the Rock, now a tourist mecca. She said she would never have come to the island if it were not for her brothers and the trail they left behind.
Clarence and John Anglin, along with Frank Morris, escaped from Alcatraz the night of June 11, 1962, and were never seen again.

The Anglin brothers were sentenced to 20 years in prison in 1956 for bank robbery. Numerous escape attempts at other prisons increased their sentences and led them to Alcatraz.

Their meticulous plan to flee Alcatraz took more than six months to execute. Makeshift spoons were used to dig tunnels out of their cells, climb up a ventilation shaft and onto the roof of the cell block before climbing down to the water. A flotation device was sewed together from more than 200 raincoats. And masks, which included real hair, were put in their bunks as decoys.

Today, the Anglin brothers would be 80 and 81 years old. Though she has no idea where they could be, Taylor said she has no doubt her brothers made it off the island.

U.S. Marshal Michael Dyke, who has been assigned to the case since 2003, also believes the men survived the escape.

“There’s nothing concrete to lead me to believe otherwise,” he said. “They made it off the island and there’s a good chance they made it off the Bay.”

Taylor said her brothers were not bad, despite their criminal record.

“They got moved to Alcatraz because [authorities] figured they wouldn’t find a way out,” she said.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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