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James Weldon Lewis


Posted By: volunteer (email)
Date: 4/29/2017 at 12:14:12

James Weldon Lewis, age 96, died peacefully in the early hours of Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017, at Oak Terrace Assisted Living in North Mankato. His wife, Bernice Lewis, and other family members were at his side.

Weldon, as he was known throughout his life, was born on Nov. 24, 1920, in Terril, Iowa. He was the son of Walter and Hazel (Sausaman) Lewis. Weldon graduated from Terril High School in 1938. As a child of the Great Depression, he worked various jobs from an early age in order to support himself and his parents.

Despite being deferred from military service during World War II because his work in construction was considered essential for the war effort, Weldon enlisted in the U.S. Navy in August 1942 at Norfolk, Va. After basic training, Weldon volunteered to serve as a combat corpsman (medic) attached to the Marines. In 1943 and 1944 he served as a front-line corpsman and battalion-aid-station operating-room technician during the invasions of Tarawa, Saipan and Tinian, some of the most ferocious battles against the Japanese in the Pacific. Weldon's company commander recommended him for a Meritorious Service Ribbon for assuming "responsibilities far above his years and experience" during the "heavy casualties phases" of the Saipan and Tinian battles.

By the end of the war, Weldon had earned several medals and the rating of Petty Officer First Class. During his time with the Navy and Marines, he traveled across the U.S. and was bivouacked in places from New Zealand to Hawaii. He stood review to (and managed to shake hands with) such luminaries as Admiral Chester Nimitz, commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific fleet, and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Of most importance, as a Marine combat corpsman he helped save the lives of many young men.

After the war he returned to his hometown of Terril. He took a job with Iowa's Dickinson County in 1949 and eventually became a foreman of the county's road maintenance operations. He was widely respected for his diligence in keeping county roads open during the winter months. He retired from the county in 1984 but remained active. He was a longtime member of the First United Methodist Church in Terril. He served on its board and spent much time helping with church maintenance and other matters. Weldon was also a member of the Walsh American Legion Post 432 in Terril for over 70 years and participated in many Legion affairs.

His hobbies over the years included hunting, fishing, gardening, playing horseshoes and entertaining the family with bawdy songs from his days in the military. Weldon was a caring and considerate father of three children. He would give anything for them and always made sure to put his medical training to work binding their childhood wounds.

In 2000 Weldon and his wife moved to Minnesota. They lived at Old Main Retirement Village in Mankato until 2015, when they moved to Oak Terrace Assisted Living in North Mankato.
Weldon is survived by his loving wife of 70 years, Bernice; his sons and their spouses Jim (Cathy) of Coralville, Iowa, and Chuck (Roxy) of Mankato; son-in-law and spouse Larry Grootveld (Karen); four grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; and a niece, nephew, four in-laws and their children. He was preceded in death by his parents; his daughter, Barbara; his sister, Emogene; his granddaughter, Jennifer; and other relatives and friends.

Weldon's body was donated to the Mayo Clinic Department of Anatomy at Rochester, Minnesota. It was his wish to help those studying in the medical field, in part because of his service in the medical branch of the military. A memorial service with military honors will be arranged during the spring at Terril. The family suggests memorials may be sent to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Attn: Development, 875 N. Randolph St., Ste 225, Arlington, VA 22203. The Relief Society also accepts donations through its website.

Published on  January 20, 2017


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