Roy Dale Thatcher
born: 19 August 1923 died: 28 October 2012
Today is Veteran's Day. 11 November 2012
Nine days ago my family attended the funeral of our last surviving WWII veteran. He is now laid to rest in the foothills of the Ozarks, in a recently established Missouri Veterans Cemetery in Springfield, Missouri. Its resemblance to Arlington Cemetery in Washington DC is amazing. Already, there are rows upon rows of flat, white headstones identifying each American Patriot. Beside Roy, three veterans were laid to rest the same day. With Marine Corps escort, a gun salute, taps, flag folding and presentation, my brother was deservedly honored.
I've known Roy my entire life as he is eight years my senior. For more than eighty years, whether near or far, he has been my protector and mentor, along with our brothers Lewis, Clarence and Ralph. Roy's life had three major strikes even before I was born: he was scalded with boiling water, confined with meningitis and restricted with asthma. He had a rabbit, roller skating chicken and talking crow. He played football, the guitar and whistled loud enough to hurt your ears, he was artistic and could build anything from an orange-crate racing car to a Jelly Bean Train. He could knit, crochet and embroider, though he rarely mentioned those talents. His military service took him across Africa, to England, D-Day in France and the Battle of the Bulge to guarding prisoners at the war's end, then to Paris to play guitar with an armed forces band while waiting for a ship to bring him past the Statue of Liberty and, finally, home to Illinois. He called himself a ditch digger while employed by Northern Illinois Gas Company although ditchdiggers don't usually have a company car with a driver. But, when he took off his business suit and put on blue jeans, Roy was a farmer.
For thirty years we met at Roy and MaryLou's farm for our Thatcher Family Reunion. There were chickens and cows, horses and mules, rabbits, guinea pigs, dogs, cats and even goats. We climbed aboard his wagon for hay less hay rides. We enjoyed the music of Roy and nephew Roy and anyone else with a song to sing or instrument to play. We stuffed ourselves at the buffet filled with casseroles, salads and desserts, all washed down with soda from the pop machine. We played games, jumped in the pool to cool off, rode horses, released balloons, and received gifts made by our talented relatives. Roy took pride and joy in hosting this annual family event, so much so that he survived a heart attack long enough to host the 30th annual Reunion where he picked up his guitar to entertain us with music as he had done so many times before.
A short, personal note can be included on the veteran's flat, white military headstone. His wife and children gave this serious consideration and concluded the appropriate note on Roy's headstone should read: See you at the Reunion.