In Memoriam

In Memoriam

Richard ‘Dick’ Cassutt 

Richard ‘Dick’ Cassutt

We have learned of the recent loss of one of our members, Richard “Dick” Cassutt , a very active Life Member of the post, including as a regular participant in our bi-annual “Buddy Poppy” events and school visits. Dick was usually present at Post meetings until recently, when health issues began to catch up with him. Dick’s widow Virginia tells us he passed away on October 7. May he rest in peace. 

In Memoriam

Charter Draped for Two Departed Comrades 

We are mourning the loss of and draping our charter for two Life Members of Post 8870 this month. In addition to the recent loss of our dear friend and comrade Robert (Buck) Weaver, we learned recently of the passing during 2019 of William Garber. Garber was a resident of Greenbank, Whidbey Island and has not recently been active in the post. Regretfully, we have no other information about Garber, his life or his service, but still we mourn the loss of another comrade in arms. Rest in peace William, along with your brother Buck. 

In Memoriam

Longest Serving & Newest Members Lost

Benton Webb 

Benton Webb

Ben was born in Lafayette, TN and enlisted in the Navy in Nashville in 1943. He served in the Pacific Theatre, Solomon Islands. He was with the 152nd Landing Craft Repair Unit (LCRU) as a 1st Class Ships Cook 1943-45. He returned to Norfolk, VA Naval Base in July, 1945 and got married. He and Mary Elizabeth were in New York City Times Square for the VJ Day celebration. They were married for 65 years. Ben joined VFW in 1945 and at his death was the longest serving member of our post at 73 years. He was a member of VFW Post 3694 in Seattle after the war and served as the Post Athletic Director. Benton was a retired baker and served as a General Manager for Hansen Bakery and Best Pie. He was 97 years old.

Benton Webb

Ben was born in Lafayette, TN and enlisted in the Navy in Nashville in 1943. He served in the Pacific Theatre, Solomon Islands. He was with the 152nd Landing Craft Repair Unit (LCRU) as a 1st Class Ships Cook 1943-45. He returned to Norfolk, VA Naval Base in July, 1945 and got married. He and Mary Elizabeth were in New York City Times Square for the VJ Day celebration. They were married for 65 years. Ben joined VFW in 1945 and at his death was the longest serving member of our post at 73 years. He was a member of VFW Post 3694 in Seattle after the war and served as the Post Athletic Director. Benton was a retired baker and served as a General Manager for Hansen Bakery and Best Pie. He was 97 years old. 


Russ Jason Pitner

Russ Jason Pitner

At his death, the newest member of our Post, inducted at the May 2019 Post meeting, Russ was an army veteran of 12 years, a staff Sergent stationed in Germany for 10 years. He commanded teams of 35 men through the Bosnian-Serbian conflict serving with the 11th Armored (“Black Horse”) Cavalry. Raised in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, he grew up with three brothers. Russ was 54. He is survived by his wife, Laurie. 

Russ Jason Pitner

Russ suffered an aneurism on Saturday, June 1 and was declared brain dead by Edmonds Swedish Hospital shortly there after. Both of his kidneys have found homes in the bodies of people who have spent every day for years waiting for the gift of life. 

In Memoriam: Edgar Gray Jr.

VFW Post member Pastor Edgar Gray Jr. passed away recently. He as born on October 15, 1933 in Ada, Ok., the second child of Deacon Edgar Gray Sr. Upon graduation from High school, he enlisted in the US Navy. Petty Officer Gray served as a Machinist’s Mate Third class for 4 years plus two in the reserves and was a veteran of the Korean War. 

Gray graduated from the University of Washington in 1977 with a BA in History and Education. Before his University Graduation, he served on The Washington State Ordination Board (for Pastors) 1972-1975. Comrade Gray was a long time member of Post 8870 and served as Post Chaplain for many years. He leaves a wife, six sons three daughters, 14 grandchildren, 13 great-grand children and a host of nieces and nephews. 

Many thanks to our Post comrade Roosevelt D. Ward, Jr., CPO Retired, USN. for providing the information on Edgar’s life. We will drape our charter in Comrade Gray’s honor at the April meeting. 

In Memoriam: George H.W. Bush President, Navy Veteran, VFW Life Member

In Memoriam: George H.W. Bush President, Navy Veteran, VFW Life MemberLike many wartime pilots, Lt. j.g. George H.W. Bush named his airplane after a girl back home. But he had to call it “Barbara III,” since he lost his first two planes — one during training and one to enemy fire. That’s how dangerous flying was in World War II. There were 16 pilots in George H.W. Bush’s squadron, according to retired Adm. Samuel Cox, director of Naval History and Heritage Command. “Half of them were killed or captured before the end of the war,” Cox said.

He flew the TBM “Avenger”, a carrier based torpedo/ bomber which had a three-man crew. His target on Sept. 2, 1944, was a Japanese radio transmitter on the island of Chichi Jima.

His plane was hit as he began his run into the target but he stayed with it until he dropped his bombs. Out over the water, Mr. Bush told his crew to bail out.

“The Japanese came out after him. Some fighters from the flight were able to strafe the Japanese boats and keep them away during the four hours that Bush was actually in the water,” Cox said. A U.S. submarine got to him before the Japanese could. A 20-year-old George H.W. Bush spent 30 days on that submarine thinking, as he later told the author James Bradley, “Later, I learned that neither Jack Delaney nor Ted White had survived. One went down with the plane; the other was seen jumping but his parachute failed to open.” Bush has been quoted as saying “I think about White and Delaney every day”

George H. W. Bush was one of eight VFW members who have become U.S. Preseidents.

Source: CBS NEWS December 4, 2018, 6:41 PM 

In Memoriam: Ernest H. Luke Sr. USMC-China, USA Korea

Pvt. E.H. Luke, USMC, China, 1946

Ernest H. (Ernie) Luke, Sr, the brother-in-law of Post Commander Mike Denton was buried next to Mike’s sister Karen on July 9, in Kennewick, WA. Military honors were rendered by a Marine Corps contingent and by Kennewick VFW Post 5785. He was 89 years old.

Three weeks prior to his death, he was awarded the Korean Peace Medal by the Korean Consul General along with other Korea Vets in a ceremony in Richland.

Luke enlisted in the Marine Corps at the age of 17 and served in China at the end of WWII and later in the army on MacArthur’s staff in Korea.

Ernest H. Luke Sr. USMC-China, USA Korea

The service of the Marines in China at the end of the war is not well known, but involved receiving the surrender of Japanese forces remaining and protecting those troops from communist forces. A detailed history can be found via this link. http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/usmchist/nochina.txt

Originally from Kentucky, Luke attended college on the GI Bill, receiving a degree in Physics (later a masters degree) and worked in avionics design with Boeing & Rockwell, and more recently in security systems design at Hanford, where he retired. He leaves his third wife Verla, and the children of Karen and Verla to whom he was step-father, as well as his own three children, Ernest Jr, Susan and David.

Ernest H. Luke Sr. USMC-China, USA Korea

In Memoriam: Earl Prebezac

VFW Post 8870 lost another of our World War II veteran members when Earl Prebezac passed way on February 9 at the age of 94. Earl was buried at Mt. Tahoma National Cemetery on February 21, with full military honors provided by or local VFW Honor Guard.

Soldier, Teacher, and Actor 

Earl was raised in St. Louis and dropped out of high school at the age of 16. With his parents’ permission, Earl attempted to join the Navy, but was discouraged by the recruiter because of his small stature. His next stop was at the Army recruiting center where he was accepted for service.

In Memoriam Earl Prebezac

Earl in the Army

Because of his Slavic heritage and ability to speak Serbian and Croatian languages, Earl was selected for the Military Intelligence Service. Instead of utilizing Earl’s Slavic language skills however, he was assigned to Photo Interpretation.

The war began for Earl on D-Day plus 21 when his unit landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy. During the year and a half that he served in Europe, Earl received four battle stars for participating in combat operations in Normandy, Northern France, the Ardennes, and the Rhineland. Six months after Germany’s surrender, he returned to the United States on the hospital ship Larkspur, after contracting a heart infection.

Once he returned to the States, Earl took advantage of the G.I. Bill, completed a GED program, and started college at Oregon State University. He enrolled in an ROTC and while participating in a drama program at Oregon State, Earl met his future wife, Nann. They transferred to the University of Washington, where Nann became a Drama major and Earl majored in history.

In Memoriam Earl Prebezac

Actor Earl

Upon graduation, Earl was hired by the Seattle Public Schools to teach Civics and History at Roosevelt High School, a position he held for 33 years. Earl also served in the Army Reserves, retiring as a 1st Lieutenant, after 12 years of service. During his years at Roosevelt High School, Earl was also the manager of the historic Moore Theater in Seattle. Earl retired from teaching in 1986.

The Prebezac’s moved to Edmonds in 1953 where they raised four boys. Throughout their life together, they both maintained their love for drama. They were founding members of an Edmonds drama group that would become the Driftwood Players and over the years, participated in numerous dramatic productions. Earl leaves his wife, Nann, their four sons, seven grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.  

In Memoriam

We will drape our charter at the February Post meeting in honor of the passing of two of our Life Members. Rest in peace Comrades.

Joseph (Ski) Kuchinski

Joseph (Ski) Kuchinski Joseph (Ski) Kuchinski

Post 8870 member Joseph Kuchinski passed away on December 31, 2017. Joseph was born in Moosic, PA August 13, 1929 to Henry Sr. and Cecelia Kuchinski. He was preceded in death by his parents and brothers, Henry Jr. and Vincent Kuchinski. “Ski, as he was he was affectionately known, enlisted in the Navy in 1948. He defended our freedom with honor and pride for 30 years in which he served in both the Korean and Vietnam wars. He was a proud member of the Knights of Columbus and VFW post 8870. A devoted member of Holy Rosary Church in Edmonds. Ski is survived by wife, Wanda, of 57 years; sister, Dorothy; daughters, Angela Kuchinski, Trina Myers, Lisa Beavin (Ron) and son, David Kuchinski; grandchildren, Bryce, Mckenzie, Breeahna, Lereana, Ryan, Kyle, Jamie and three great grand children. Services were held at Tahoma National Cemetery, January 26, 2018.

Richard Clyde 

Richard Clyde

Richard Clyde , World War II Veteran and Life Member of VFW Post 8870 died January 24, 2018 at age 92 in his home town of Langley, on Whidbey Island.

The Clyde name is ubiquitous in Langley. There’s Clyde Alley and Clyde Road. The famous Clyde Theatre, built in 1937, still shows movies. Clyde Motors was once adjacent to the theater at the corner of First and Anthes.

Richard grew up in Langley during the Great Depression. He worked at the family garage in high school and frequently ran the projector at the theater. Richard went back to work in his father’s garage after he returned from World War II. He eventually bought the business in 1954.

In Memoriam

NL0417_William-LeFevreLeo William (Bill) LeFevre of Edmonds, one of our few remaining WWII combat veterans passed away on March 16. He was 93 years of age.

While not a member of our post, Bill was a veteran of WWII, serving in Europe as a BAR man with the 99th Infantry Division. He was wounded at Bastogne, just at the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge, for which action he received the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. He returned to his unit following recovery in England.

Bill was a widower of many years, the father of five and an engineer with Lockheed and later Boeing, working in defense projects. He was a poet, violinist and singer of considerable skill. A kinder man and a better friend you are unlikely to find. Your editor sang with him for many years in the Holy Rosary Church Choir, where he was the longest serving member at 43 years, until the last month of his life.

In Memoriam

Elizabeth Mather

We lost another of our valued comrades when Elizabeth Mather passed away on August 1. Elizabeth served in the United States Navy, 1952-56 and was an active member of 8870, including as past Quartermaster until her health forced her to reduce her activity. The post charter was draped in her honor at our August meeting and Mike Reagan brought her portrait, which was later presented to her family at her Funeral Mass, held August 19, 2016 at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Edmonds. Liz will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Elizabeth Mather

James Harkness

Jim Harkness, one of Post 8870’s few remaining veterans of World War II passed away on August 18. Jim born in Elk Point, South Dakota Jim graduated from Snohomish High School in 1942 at 16 years of age. He enlisted in the Army in September 1943 and participated in the Battle of the Bulge with the 758th Field Artillery BN. After being honorably discharged in March, 1946, Jim married Ruth Clemens Nentwig in 1951 and had a daughter, Sue Carol (Harkness). During his career with Safeway, Jim met and married his second wife, Dorothy Neal, in 1982. Jim enjoyed collecting antiques, writing his memoirs, short stories and poetry and was a very active member of VFW Post 8870. Jim is survived by three sisters, Gladys, Tina, and Fanny of the Midwest; his daughter, Sue Carol (Harkness) Irwin of Renton, wife, Dorothy Mae (Davenport) , three stepchildren, six grandchildren, and five great grandchildren. Interment was at Tahoma National Cemetery, on August 25, 2016.

James Harkness

Kenneth Hicks

Just before press time, we learned that Ken passed away on July 22 of this year. Born November 17, 1946 in Livingston, Montana, later living in Orting, WA, Ken served in the Air Force from 1969-73 and in Vietnam from 1971-72. He performed C-54 aircraft maintenance at Tan Son Nhut AFB and also served as a flight mechanic with the 377th CAMS with 200 sorties. Stateside, he was based at Lackland AFB, Shepard AFB and McClellan AFB. Awards include the Good Conduct Medal. He had been a member of Post 8870 since February 2014. Ken earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Washington and retired after a career as an engineer with Boeing. Ken resided in Edmonds with his wife Carol and is survived by a son and daughter. Ken was a member of Cascade Warbirds.

Kenneth Hicks

In Memoriam: Dr. Robert W. Otto 1922 – 2015

WWII Veteran, POW, combat wounded

 

Dr. Robert W. Otto

Bob Otto in younger days

Post 8870 lost one of our more senior comrades late last year when Robert Otto, long time VFW member, passed away on December 7, 2015. Born October 1, 1922, at home in Jerome, Idaho, bob graduated from Jerome High School, attended Utah State Univ. and The College of Idaho; then worked in the California naval shipyards before entering the Army in 1943. Sgt Otto participated in 12 missions as a tailgunner before being shot down aboard the B-24 ‘Texarkana Hussy’ over Pollau, Austria in June 1944. Severely burned, he was taken POW to Stalag Luft IV in Poland. A German Death March survivor, he was liberated at Fallingbostel, Germany in May 1945 and awarded two Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Bob Otto with Austrian artist Josef Schutzenhofer, with his painting dedicated to Americans shot down over Austria during World War II

Bob Otto (left) with Austrian artist Josef Schutzenhofer, with his painting dedicated to Americans shot down over Austria during World War II.

Bob married Mary Ann Plastino on March 24, 1946, in Jerome. They farmed west of town for several years, during which he served as County Auditor and rode with the Jerome Posse. The family moved to Ft. Collins, Colo. in 1952 where Robert finished his undergrad work at Colorado A&M. In 1954, they moved to Pullman, Wash. where he graduated in 1957 from Washington State College with a doctorate in veterinary medicine. Two more children were born during the college years, Randy and Robyn. After teaching veterinary medicine at Kansas State University, the family settled in Edmonds, where he built a veterinary practice. Later he was the Area Director for the Northwest Animal Hospital Assn. and honored as Washington State Veterinarian of the Year. He retired from his practice in 1992.

Bob was a founding member of the Edmonds Senior Center and was very active in the Exchange Club. Following his retirement, he served with Christian Veterinary Missions as Short-Term Shuttle Coordinator and Chaplain, then in the mission field on the Navajo Indian Reservation, in Haiti, Bolivia, Malawi and Kenya. He obtained his minister’s license and served at Family Life Center and Sonrise Chapel as an assistant pastor before leading a small church called The Gathering at Garden Court until 2012.

In 2001, Bob was honored by the Polish government at a ceremony dedicating a statue commemorating those who were interred at Luft Stalag IV, accompanied by his son, Randy. He was also accompanied by John Nichols, who wrote The Last Escape, including Robert’s story of his interment and liberation. In 2008, he was a guest of the Austrian government and took his three children with him to attend the unveiling of a memorial by famed artist Josef Schutzenhofer (above left) commemorating those who helped liberate Austria. The following year, Bob wrote his autobiography, A Walk with God. This led to many speaking opportunities with the VFW, schools and libraries. In 2011, he traveled with Honor Flight to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington DC. Look for a more detailed description of Bob’s wartime experience in a future issue of this newsletter.