Dad was born and raised on a farm in Utica, Mississippi. His early life was one of hard work, creek swimming, and lots of mischief with his four siblings; Ruby, Buddy, Peck and Yancie. Later their spouses Harold, Jessie, Dee and Gene joined the mix and became lifelong friends. Despite his love of fun he was a good student and a responsible eldest son who left his hometown for the first time as a high school junior to attend the State Math Rally and left Mississippi soon after to attend the Chicago 4H Fair as the contest winner for raising the most cotton on an acre of land. He worked and studied chemistry at Hinds Junior College and Mississippi State until cotton prices fell to five cents a pound and “I ran out of money”. He was fortunate to get full time employment during the depression with a job in Lake, Mississippi, the home town of “the prettiest girl I ever saw”, Pearl Foley.
He made a life-changing decision soon after while plowing the cotton field. “As I looked at the south end of a mule 6 army planes flew over at about 500 feet. My future changed then and there”. And on December 7, 1941, as Pearl Harbor burned, he made the decision to enlist. Nine months later he was admitted to flight school and began his much-loved United States Air Force career.
As for many men of the greatest generation, the war years were life changers. Friendships forged within the cabin of his B-26, “The Mississippi Maid”, would stay with him for more than half a century as the 319th Bomb Group corresponded until the end of his life. Travel broadened his horizons. And his love of country became a central driving force.
Another love of his life drew him back to Mississippi where he traveled AWOL for 24 hours to marry the “prettiest girl” and bring her back to Barksdale. They would have 3 daughters; Ree, who married Jon Stephenson, Judy, who married Danny Roemer, and Suzi. Good times and hard times came and went. Perhaps the hardest was after Mom passed away. Nine months after her death they reunited in heaven.
Dad was a great lemonade maker his whole life, turning the lemons life served him into something wonderful. When he returned to Mississippi after the war and tried his hand as a grocery man he was out of money and needed a house. So he built one. When Mom said, “We need furniture,” he built that too. When the grocery enterprise failed he became a career Air Force Officer instead and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. After being denied a much desired college education as a young man he waited a few decades and graduated from college in the spring that his youngest daughter graduated from high school. He obtained his masters degree as his grandchildren were entering the picture. When age discontinued his flying career he started a second career as an educator; a new and wonderful time of his life. Airline High School and Louisiana Tech were the home of many friends and rewarding experiences. When back problems terminated his golf game he learned to carve and paint and spent many hours in the sun on his patio creating works of art. When his daughter said, “before you die we need to write down some of your stories”, he wrote his autobiography. When the farmer in him could no longer get on his knees in the garden he grew tomatoes in a raised bed at his assisted living center. When he became confined to his bed he became an inspiration. No greater dignity was shown in his life than the dignity with which he left it.
Dad loved his family. He loved the First United Methodist Church of Bossier City. He loved America. Great moments in his life were some of the simpler times; sitting in the backyard swing with Mom and his neighbors, spending time with his grandchildren, Julie and Franklin, on Friday nights and summer vacations with Laurie. He was proud of their choices for mates in life: Paul, a Shreveport anesthesiologist; Christy, a vivacious mother of four; and fellow Air Force pilot, Christiaan. A highlight of his 93 years was a serenade on his 90th birthday by great grandchildren, Chris, Matt and Lauren Norton and Emily, Catherine, Maggie and Tripp Roemer. “Proud to be an American” never sounded better. On the last Thanksgiving Day with Mom, more great grandchildren; Payton, Riley and Brooks Sartain joined the chorus.
Many thanks go to the Roberson family for their many years of care, Dr. Emma McCarty for her kindness and excellence, Anne Roberson with Shreveport -Bossier Hospice, and the staff at Montclair Park. Also thanks go to nephew, Jimmy, and his wife, Linda, who were loyal supporters throughout his life.
Visitation will be May 12, 2014 between 5:00 and 7:00 P.M at Hillcrest Funeral Home. Funeral services will be at 11:00 A.M. , May 13,2014 at First United Methodist Church of Bossier City with internment to follow at Hillcrest Cemetery in Haughton. Pall bearers will be Danny Roemer, Jon Pat Stephenson, Franklin Roemer, Paul Norton, Christiaan Sartain, Jimmy Cranford, Chris and Matt Norton, and John and Scott Baradell. Donations may be made to the First United Methodist Church of Bossier or Disabled American Veterans.
Words of comfort may be shared with the family at www.hillcrestmemorialfh.com