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Our World War II Vets Are Leaving Us Fast

By Charles Cooper

Hello everyone, I know I usually open with a wish that you are having a good week but this week is different.  I just learned today of the death of my dear friend, Mr. Chester Joyner.  

Although I’ve only gotten to know him in recent years, I came to love him and his family.  I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time with him, and for that I’m really sorry. I’ll always treasure the time we did spend together,  the information he gave me, and the video he produced and shared with me.  

It was always a humbling experience to be in the presence of a true American hero. I’m sure that when he started to work at the Stave Mill at 14, he couldn’t have visualized the course his life would take.  Like millions of young men, they didn’t ask for that war, but they went anyway.      As Mr. Chester told me, “They gave me a job to do and I did the best I could.”  When I looked at the medals he received, I think he did a very good job.  When he came home, he went back to work at the Stave Mill, got married, raised three children, and lived to see grand-children and great-grand-children.          

When the Stave Mill closed, he went to work at the Big Yank plant and retired after 20 years.  He had some of his children living near him and, to me, he seemed contented  and at peace with himself.  I am constantly reminded that the life we enjoy today in due largely to the sacrifices of Mr. Chester and the millions of others who “did the best they could.”  

This is not the column I had meant to write this week but I’ll  do it in the near future.  My condolences to Mrs. Joyner, Mike, Joey, and Beverly and the rest of the family.  I think I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some other World War II vets that I know personally.  

Crip Tyler was a Naval Gunner on Merchant Ships on the run to Murmansk, Russia which was one of the most dangerous sea lanes in the North Atlantic.  The Crumby twins, Hollis and Wallace, were gunners on the same bomber for over 30 missions in Europe.

Wallace told me that his most vivid memory was that he was always cold, as the planes weren’t pressurized in those days.  Jim Oakley was in the South Pacific war zones during most of the War.  

Dudley Kelley spent 32 years in the Navy, served on 17  carriers and was on the Wasp when it was torpedoed. He spent over seven hours in the ocean before being rescued.  Wade Doolin was in some of the same War zones in Europe as Mr. Chester.  Their ranks are thinning fast, so when you see one of these guys, go up and shake their hand or simply say “thank you.”  

Let me hear from you as your input is always appreciated.  My email address is or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, TN 39101 and best wishes to you and yours.

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