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Death of a Veteran

By Joe Starkey



In the dark, early hours of this Veteran’s Day, another World War II veteran passed away at eighty-nine years. He was one of an estimated 1,000 that pass away every day now. His story is much like that of many others but I chose to tell his story. He grew up in west Texas like most of the boys living on farms and ranches. He was born in the little town of Lockney, Texas. His Grandfather moved the family from Oklahoma to the panhandle of Texas on the railroad when most people were moving by oxcart. He grew up riding horses, herding some cows but mostly sheep. He and his three brothers played most of the sports available. He really liked school because “it meant I only had to work about six hours a day on the ranch and could sit down while at school.” When the family had a ranch at Bailyboro, Texas some of the hands caught a family of coyote pups.{{more}} The big entertainment that month was to be a “coyote roping.” One hand actually did manage to rope one and got the prize money made up of entry fees but the real entertainment was when the coyotes got loose and starting running thru the watching crowd with the cowboys in hot pursuit. His father moved his family to Muleshoe, Texas where they started a meat packing plant in addition to ranching. His father was one of nine brothers and this veteran had 34 first cousins so family was always fun and important. He and his oldest brother made the money to attend Texas Tech by spending the summer building earthen dams for local ranchers. As did many students of that time, they arrived at Texas Tech in 1938 with a milk cow each so they could earn spending money selling the milk and their roping horses to compete in the local rodeos. A life-long Methodist, he started attending the college Methodist youth fellowship and met the girl who would be his wife. World War II came as he was graduating and he entered the Army with several million others of the Greatest Generation. Starting out in flying school to become an Officer Pilot and was in his last week of training and had soloed when the Army came out with the requirement for color blindness tests. He failed and went from officer candidate to KP . He got off that by showing the cooks a better way to quarter chickens. Then he earned a job at the Post Veterinarian’s office using both his packing plant skills and the Animal Husbandry degree from Texas Tech. He went from private to Staff Sergeant and then was encouraged to attend Officer Candidate School where he was commissioned in the Army Medical Corp. His training was to manage an aid station just far enough behind our lines that both the German long rounds and the Allied short rounds made life a short proposition. Almost 90% of his class was killed in action. By luck of alphabet, he ended up with a training company that trained the black stretcher bearers. These brave men may have carried you, your father or grandfather to safety in those perilous times. He was proud of those soldiers all of his life.But even Wars end and he, like many others came home, married and went to work. His father had moved the family to Clovis, New Mexico and started another meat packing plant and also a rendering plant . He raised a family of two boys and a girl. He was active in both his church and community. Working 60 hour weeks, he still found time to form the best fast pitch softball team in New Mexico for almost 12 years and coach his children when they got old enough to play baseball and basketball. Like many other World War II veterans, he decided to take advantage of the education offered and took night courses to get his masters degree. His wife taught school while he was in the Army and went back to teaching when the youngest started first grade. The big companies were moving in on the family business and he and his wife decided to change to teaching full time. He taught 5th grade in Lubbock while she got her Doctorate. Then they moved the family to Roswell, NM where both could teach and he could continue his education in the summers. As did many Americans after WWII they started moving after spending most of their lives in the same area. They both took their Doctorates and taught for universities in Wyoming and Illinois.Having raised their family and finishing their teaching career, they moved back to the house where his wife was born and provided a strong center for their far roving children to call home. They enjoyed West Texas and retirement celebrating their sixty-seventh wedding anniversary on 3 November of this year. This veteran was my father, Dr. Johnie Dow Starkey and I miss him. He is survived by his three sisters; his wife, Roberta; two sons, Joe and Bill, and a daughter, Elaine. He had three granddaughters and a great grandson.

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