WWII Soldier Fought Japanese; Liberated Prisoners

 

Paul Rider of Fort Wayne is an interviewer’s dream. He could recite his story during World War II in clear fashion, had a scrapbook full of memories, a diary and many photos – and a story that had a peaceful resolution decades after the war. Remember to thank a veteran today for his/her service to our country!

Listen to a 1-min telling by Rider about liberating internees at University of St. Tomas in Manila here.

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In February 1944 Paul Rider of Fort Wayne, IN, was part of the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division preparing to leave Australia for an invasion of New Guinea. “New Guinea was a final staging area for the Admiralty Island invasion,” said Rider.

When the invasion began a few weeks later, the Allies nearly didn’t get a foothold according to Rider. “The Japanese almost pushed us off the first night,” he said. “Our 75-mm Howitzer was not too powerful.”

Rider was born in 1920 in Scott, OH, but moved with his family to Fort Wayne when he was four years old. Rider graduated from Southside High School in 1938.

Upon being drafted into the Army in March 1942, Rider was sent to Fort Sill in OK for basic training. He received training of a different sort at Fort Bliss near El Paso, TX when he was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division, A Battery, 82nd Field Artillery.

As the name implies, the cavalry division was comprised of horses. Rider and other soldiers selected for the division were expected to ride them. The problem was, they didn’t know how to ride and there were no official lessons. “I had never been on a horse,” said Rider. “The Army chose you to be in the cavalry if you could stand up. We just got on the horse and tried to manage.”

Horses and soldiers participated in Louisiana Maneuvers, a series of U.S. Army exercises. “Two horses pulled a 75-mm Howitzer, while four horses pulled the Howitzer with the additional weight of ammunition,” he said.

In the hot, sticky environment Rider and other soldiers learned the horses’ needs came first. “After a day of riding, we wanted to rest but couldn’t because we had to care for our horses,” he said. They had to take off the saddle, comb, feed and water the animals, a process that usually took about an hour. The tired soldiers slept on pine needles and ticks.

Once his commander discovered he could type, Rider was transferred to an office job. Later, he transferred to Supply where he became Supply Sergeant for his battery of 250 men.

In July 1943 Rider’s division zigzagged unescorted for 25 days on the USS George Washington through waters where Japanese submarines were known to patrol.

After securing it and other Admiralty Islands in mid-May 1944, the Allies constructed a major air and naval base which became an integral launching point for campaigns in the Pacific.

Rider was also part of a flying column (small, military land unit capable of moving quickly) of 700 soldiers that battled first in Leyte, then Luzon in the Philippines. “We landed on the north shore and were under attack, but carried M1 carbines and kept moving,” he said.

Rider Yank mag surrender

In February 1945 Rider and others in the U.S. Army helped to liberate Santo Tomas Internment Camp in Manila. Located on the campus of the University of Santo Tomas, it was the largest of several camps in the Philippines in which the Japanese had interned enemy civilians, many American, beginning January 1942.

More than 3,000 internees suffered from poor living conditions and lack of food, including children. Many internees were near death. “The internees looked like a bunch of bones moving around,” said Rider. “It was a sad situation.”

In August 1945 Rider’s division was preparing to head to Japan for a major invasion when they heard about the dropping of a bomb on Hiroshima. The news of Japan’s surrender was exciting and the First Cavalry boarded the USS Talladega to sail for Yokohama. They arrived in time to witness the signing of the surrender on September 2, 1945, a date that would become known as ‘VJ Day’ (Victory in Japan). “Our ship moved next to the USS Missouri where the signing of the surrender took place,” he said. “I could see the Japanese officials with their top hats.”

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Master Sergeant Rider remained in Yokohama with other Allied troops until September 25 to maintain order. Then, due to his length of time in service and participation in battles, he sailed home on the Talladega. He was discharged on October 19, 1945.

Rider worked most of his life in the banking industry. He and his wife Patricia are parents to seven children. “I was glad to do what I could to serve our country,” he said.

aRider Jap flag

An unusual story that would not be resolved for more than 30 years had begun during the war when Rider and two other soldiers patrolled the jungle on Manus Island. They didn’t find the enemy, but Rider discovered something else — a case lying on the ground. It contained a Japanese flag with writing on it. Rider he suspected it had been dropped by a Japanese soldier and shipped it home as a souvenir.

In 1978 Rider was at a Lions Club meeting that hosted Japanese Lions Club members. He took the flag and a female Japanese guest read names on it. “She said the flag had probably been signed by members of a particular unit,” he said.

With Rider’s permission the Japanese visitor took information printed on the flag back to Japan and upon doing research, found the flag’s original owner who was still alive. Rider mailed the flag to him and the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel published a photo and story about the incident in March 4, 1978.

 

 

WWII Seaman Al LeFevra Served Aboard USS Gemsbok in South Pacific

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“From everyday small feats to undeniably heroic efforts, the accomplishments and achievements of America’s Navy are vast and significant. Since its birth on October 13, 1775, the Navy has been involved with more than ten major wars and countless battles in the effort to bring security, democracy and prosperity to the American people and to the international community.” from US Navy Ball website.

**

I didn’t know sailors could wear facial hair until my interview with Al LeFevra. When he showed me a photo of himself dancing in a hula skirt and wearing a beard, I could hardly believe my eyes! Here is Al’s story as published in the News-Sentinel on Oct 12, 2015. All of these photo materials are printed with permission from the newspaper and the veteran.

 

They were provided by Al LeFevra from his collection of war mementos.

HEADLINE: Dad’s advice, hula skirt, asbestos helped make Navy life bearable

Believing his son Al would soon be drafted during WWII, Rene LeFevra, a WWI veteran, shared information about his own time in the Army with his son. “He told me how he lived in fox holes, had little to eat and bathed rarely,” said Al. “He thought it would be an advantage for me to be in the Navy because I’d have good food and a clean place to sleep. That was all he needed to say!”

Al LeFevra was born in Woodburn in 1922. After graduating from Central High School in Fort Wayne in May 1942, he enlisted in the Navy in Indianapolis in November.

After completing basic training at Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Chicago, he was sent to Treasure Island Naval Base in CA. LeFevra signed up for sea duty and was assigned to the USS Gemsbok (means ‘African antelope’).

The Gemsbok, which held a crew of approximately 100, was a supply ship converted to a tanker. “The conversion was to fool the Japanese,” he said. “During combat, they dropped bombs on tankers to destroy fuel. Many of our tankers carrying oil were getting sunk. Regular fuel ships measured approximately 900 feet in length and held about 100,000 barrels of fuel. Supply ships were half that length and carried half the fuel.”

On January 12, 1944, LeFevra’s ship received orders to head for Hawaii and then the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific. There they would join the US fighting fleet under the Vice Admiral William Halsey.

Although a destroyer escort surrounded the Gemsbok for protection, LeFevra was not afraid of the enemy. He had more to deal with. “The water between the US and Hawaii was rough so many of us were seasick,” he said. Crackers helped LeFevra’s stomach.

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At Pearl Harbor LeFevra saw sunken ships from Japan’s December 7, 1941, invasion. He also grew a beard, which was allowed in the Navy, and paraded in a hula skirt he purchased when not on watch. Al still has this skirt today and uses it during talks at schools about the war. He said kids love it! Please excuse the photo’s quality which has deteriorated over the years.

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Notice how this bill is stamped ‘Hawaii’ on the right. It was issued by the US government after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

At the Marshall Islands the crew had permission to go ashore. It was LeFevra’s first experience on a beach. “Other sailors from battleships, airplane carriers, destroyers and escorts had landed and cleared the area of Japanese soldiers,” he said.

Two months later the crew of the Gemsbok received orders to go to the island of Eniwetok. It was also deserted and served as the crew’s home base. “During our six months at Eniwetok, we furnished oil for fighting ships from Mariana, Majuro and Kwajalein islands,” said LeFevra.

A passing British ship appreciated when the crew of the Gemsbok shared fuel and food. One sailor pointed out his ship’s ‘head’ (toilet). “It overhung the water off the fantail (stern/back) of the ship,” said LeFevra. “It looked like an outhouse. I suppose that way they didn’t require a flushing system.”

The chief of the Gemsbok’s engine room was transferred and LeFevra tested for the position of water tender first class petty officer. He passed the exam and being the next highest sailor on board to a chief, LeFevra became acting chief of the fire and engine room.

He no longer had to stand watch and could eat in the chow room separate from the rest of the crew, but he had to be available in case of emergency. “I had to see all of the men under me did their job and report to the executive officer daily,” he said.

Fresh water was in short supply until LeFevra devised a solution. The Navy had a unit that processed salt water into drinkable water, though the water tasted salty. LeFevra took loose asbestos, mixed it with water and pressed it around a jug. After the solution dried, it formed an insulation. “We poured cold water from our ship into it and it stayed fairly cool with no salty aftertaste. When others found out about my water, they drank all of it. I made no more fresh water!”

In their spare time the sailors played sports. LeFevra was good at boxing, having learned it in high school. “When other sailors challenged me, we didn’t try to knock the other out, but had fun,” he said. “No one came out of it too bruised.”

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Al LeFevra served on the USS Gemsbok during WWII.

In July 1944 the crew received orders to head for Saipan and Tinian. “As we anchored off Saipan, we saw fighting on Tinian four miles away as Japanese soldiers hid in caves.” The Marines bulldozed rocks and tons of dirt to fill in caves. When no one wanted a Japanese rifle that had been found, LeFevra claimed it. “I was told not to load it with our ammunition because our ammunition was too powerful for that gun,” he said.

A new officer came on board who had seen much action in fighting. When planes flew over the Gemsbok, he hit the deck. “I learned this officer had seen stress conditions,” said LeFevra. Two weeks later the officer was transferred to a hospital in Hawaii.

In January 1945 the crew received word that Admiral Chester Nimitz was the new commander of the fleet. In the following days, B29 bombers flew toward Tinian, which was now secured and provided air support for B29s. “We didn’t know until much later that the atomic bomb used to bomb Nagasaki and Hiroshima called Little Boy was unloaded there in July 1945,” said LeFevra.

Soon the Philippines were liberated and the Gemsbok sailed to Leyte Gulf and was there with many other ships in September 1945 when the war finally ended.

lefevra-vict-celeb

“Ships shot flares into the air like a Fourth of July celebration,” said LeFevra. When the celebration was over, the Gemsbok headed to Guam but ran into a hurricane that lasted three days and four nights. No one was allowed on deck. “Surprisingly, I didn’t get seasick, probably due to the excitement,” said LeFevra. Eating utensils had disappeared so the sailors ate sandwiches for four days.

At Kure Bay the crew went ashore to see the destruction to the city from the Allies’ recent bombing. “Everything was destroyed, so it was surprising how friendly the people were,” said LeFevra.

After the treaty of surrender was signed by the Japanese emperor and the Allies, the Gemsbok sailed for Hawaii. LeFevra had earned enough points to be discharged, but when his skipper asked him to stay aboard until the ship sailed to Alabama where it would be decommissioned, he agreed.

They sailed through the Panama Canal, then through the Gulf of Mexico to Mobile. On April 30, 1946, the sailors of the USS Gemsbok were called to order on deck under the US flag and the ship’s pennant. Each US Navy ship flies a pennant at the top of the US flag.

As they stood at attention and saluted, the US flag was lowered. The pennant was twisted, so LeFevra climbed a rope 12 feet to retrieve it.

The Captain presented it to him. “I was the only original sailor remaining from the ship’s commissioning,” said LeFevra. “He said I was one of the most honest men who had ever worked for him and gave me a letter of commendation.” LeFevra still has the pennant today.

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LeFevra takes his military mementos to schools for talks to students about his part in WWII.

When LeFevra was discharged, he held the rank of First Class Water Tender earning $100/month. He took home his Japanese rifle, camera, and ship’s log (diary) among other items.

After arriving in Fort Wayne, LeFevra was thrilled to see his brother Don, who had enlisted in the Navy with parental permission at age 16, to serve aboard a submarine tender, USS Prairie.

Al LeFevra worked at General Electric as a sand blaster. Adept at math, he attended Purdue University in Fort Wayne for drafting and later worked as a Senior Designer at BAE in Fort Wayne. He retired in 1987.

In 1947 LeFevra married Betty Elizabeth Willey from Marion. She and a son are deceased.

In 2013 LeFevra accompanied the Honor Flight for Northeast Indiana to Washington DC. “I feel everything went good for me while I was in the Navy,” he said.  “People from our church wrote to us and people sent cookies. We put them on the table and shared them. That meant a lot to us. We didn’t have much time to be homesick. Dad was right.”

The End

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More than two dozen stories like these are available in my book, World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans. It features stories based on personal interviews from men/women in nearly every branch about their military service.

This would make a unique gift for a history, military lover or a person who loves America! It is written in easy-to-understand language so non-military people can understand, include students in middle/ high school. It would be a great addition to a school library.

The book can be purchased at this Amazon link.

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Remember to thank a veteran today for his/ her service!

 

Bluffton Street Fair, Speaking Engagements Inform about WWII Vets

Seaman Richard Block served at Okinawa.

Seaman Richard Block served at Okinawa.

Whew! It’s been quite a week of promoting World War II veterans! Last week my husband John & I met hundreds (thousands?) of people as we manned our booth at the Bluffton Street Fair. It was great fun with lots of opportunities to tell people about the 100 World War II vets I’ve interviewed and my book, World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans. Often we had the privilege of talking to vets of other wars—mostly Vietnam.

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The poster I made just prior to the fair was especially popular. Having just completed my 100th World War II interview, I cut out photos of each veteran and placed them alphabetically on the poster. Many people from the community recognized men and women they had known but perhaps never knew were vets.

After five days at the fair, we are dog tired, but thankful that the weather was ideal with temps in the upper 70s all week. That caused attendance at the fair to be estimated as above average. Book sales during the week were helped by my keeping with a Street Fair tradition. Many businesses offer discounts for fairgoers. I chose to offer World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans at a sale price– $20 reduced to $15.

Carl Capatina K poster

Quite a bargain for the 28 detailed stories contained within! Several friends stopped by for a copy and I snapped their photos before they could get away! Strangers picked up hundreds of me business cards and dozens of people signed up to win a free book. My next blog post will announce the winner! People asked if I was planning another book. That’s a question I’ll address after Christmas. Stay tuned!

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This time of year is especially busy for me for another reason—Veteran’s Day (Nov 11). A number of groups have asked me to speak on the subject of my project of interviewing as many World War II vets as I can.

My talk with the Zanesville Lions Club a few weeks ago was a great experience. They are a most gracious group of people. Daughter Mandy attended with me. We were impressed with their friendliness and interest in the subject of WWII.

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I was particularly impressed with the students who attended as ‘Leo’ Lions (beginners). They listened respectfully and asked pertinent questions. One high schooler floored me when he told me afterward that he liked what I was doing in interviewing World War II vets. His grandfather had been a World War II veteran. “I think Grandpa would have liked being in your book if he was still alive,” he said.  I was so touched to think this young man honored his beloved relative and the military and me simultaneously without realizing it.

K J booth

The meeting was especially valuable because one of the vets from my book—Homer Bates – attended as a special guest. His good friend, Sue Harris (I’m glad to call her my good friend too), brought him and I read his story to the group. Those who purchased a copy of the book were thrilled when Homer agreed to sign their copies. That’s a benefit of this book—bringing generations together.

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The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel newspaper published another one of my World War II stories today as they have done every other Monday since February. These are new stories not found in my book

Today’s story was especially poignant. Richard Block was a Navy seaman who fought as part of the communication group aboard ship during the bloody Battle of Okinawa. Later he was an esteemed educator in the Fort Wayne area.

Sadly, Mr. Block died on September 19, 2015, just days before his story was published. His photo in uniform is pasted at the top.

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That is part of the risk we take in working with men and women whose ages are older than 88 years old. Still, it is a sad occurrence and I’m always glad that we were able to get their story before they passed.

I can’t interview every World War II veteran still living. I challenge everyone reading this to find a World War II veteran and ask to hear stories he or she may be willing to share. If the veteran is not willing to talk, thank him/her for the military service they provided and move on to another veteran.

If we work together, we can gather these stories before they are lost to us completely.

Tips to Interviewing 100+ WWII Veterans

Vernon Byer brought home flag from Japan after serving there during the Occupation.

Vernon Byer brought home flag from Japan after serving there during the Occupation.

Sometimes people want to know what happens when I interview a World War II veteran. It’s a process and always a privilege.

First, I allot two hours for the interview. This does not include the time it takes to drive to/from the place where the veteran lives.

The two hours does include my getting set up with my tape recorder, notepad, getting both of us settled across from each other and then the actual talking. That can be quite a brain strain for the veteran! They are reaching back 70+ years for details! I recently listed the questions that I typically ask—53 minimum! Whew!

Bill Yaney also served in Japan during WWII with the Army.

Bill Yaney also served in Japan during WWII with the Army.

Then there are photos—prior to the interview I ask the veteran and/or his /her family to gather mementos, photos, souvenirs, books, cap/T-shirt from an Honor Flight of Northeast Indiana trip, medals, anything brought home from the war.

 

I’ve seen Nazi flags, Hitler Youth T-shirt, guns from many countries, Japanese shoes, Navy logbooks, uniforms, photos of locales all over the world. It’s all 70+ years old and fascinating!

I then drape these items over and around the veteran for the photos. I take several shots with my digital camera and then shoot more pics with my iPad to post online.

 

Then I ask the veteran to tell me of a brief incident that happened to him/her during the war. I tape that incident in a minute or so on the ipad.

Dick Willey brought home a Hitler Youth T-shirt from his time of service in Germany.

Dick Willey brought home a Hitler Youth T-shirt from his time of service in Germany.

The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel newspaper has been publishing my World War II stories. They have sometimes used these vids on their website (News-Sentinel.com).

You can access my stories here: Kayleen Reusser WWII stories.

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

These are different stories than the 28 listed in my book, WWII Legacies: Stories of Northeast IN Veterans.

I use my handheld scanner to scan old photos (I always try to get one of the veteran in uniform and any others), documents for verification and even book pages.

 

Finally, I pack up my gear in a small suitcase, thank the veteran for his/her time and leave. By the end of the time, I’m tired but exhilarated. I think the veteran is probably tired too! The interview is quite a mind-numbing session, but totally worth it.

Here’s why.

Each interview means I’ve made a new friend. That’s how I see the vets and how I hope they view me.

I’m thrilled because another veteran has entrusted his/her story to me. That is a privilege.

I’m also thrilled because we have another piece of our national heritage documented. So far, I’ve interviewed 100+ vets from across Indiana.

They are not just a number. Each story is unique and precious. I record each veteran’s birthday and send them cards. I’m also going to send Christmas cards this year! When possible, I visit the vets.

Sure, I wish I had begun interviewing like this 10 years ago. But I was not ready then for the commitment it requires. I believe in ‘better late than never’.

Hey, we have 100 stories that we didn’t have a few months ago!

What are you doing to preserve our nation’s heritage?

 

Follow The Writers View for Practical Advice

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If you are a Christian who is a writer or feels God has called you to be a writer but you don’t know what to do first, I recommend you join TWV1 — The Christian Writers View Group on Yahoo.
I’ve followed it for many years and have found it to be informational, biblical and best of all, written by many professional writers from across the nation! You have to apply but as far as I know, nearly everyone is accepted. Subjects are posted weekly and anyone can reply w/ pertinent information to the topic. This is not a place to sell books blatantly, although if it pertains to the subject, such as marketing, then its OK.

You must adhere to the rules, such as keeping your answers brief and on topic. The column is monitored which makes it reliable for quality posts.
There is no cost to join.
I’ve pasted my recent response to a question posted this week about newspaper writing. Since I’ve written for newspapers– Ossian Sun Riser (column), Ft Wayne News-Sentinel Features, Bluffton News-Banner– for more than a decade, I felt I could give some insight.

Do you write for newspapers? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Please leave me a comment. I love newspapers as you’ll see in my responses below.

**
Hello, everyone. Let’s talk about writing columns for newspapers for the
next days.

For those of you who are writing columns for newspapers, how did you get
your columnist job? What is the biggest challenge you face in writing your
column? And how has writing the column benefited both your writing and your
overall brand as a writer?

If you are interesting in writing newspaper columns, what questions do you
have that we could answer to help get you on your way?

David Thomas, Journalism Panelist
http://www.DavidThomasBooks.com

My response to the group:

1. How did you get your columnist job?

I had written dozens of Feature stories for the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel
newspaper when a columnist for a smaller newspaper, Ossian (IN) Sun Riser,
died. I contacted the editor, asking if he could use my help and attaching
several sample stories. He took me on and I’ve written weekly stories about
people, events, places in a rural community close to me for four years. The
pay is nominal, but I get paid on time and the work is easy-people are
friendly, they like my stories, and I enjoy giving honest, generous people
their 15 minutes of fame.

2. What is the biggest challenge you face in writing your column?

My biggest challenge is not finding ideas-I think everyone has a good story
inside! I work in a school library and find it difficult to establish
time/energy to write at home. Rarely does this keep me from submitting a
story by deadline. My editor is great to work with and I’m eager to make his
job easier.

3. How has writing the column benefited both your writing and your overall
brand as a writer?

Since people in my community know me/my name, I have been asked to speak and
take my 11 children’s books for author talks. The regular pay has helped me
feel productive and disciplined. Last year I wrote two weekly stories for
two papers.

I love writing for newspapers because you see the story in print so quickly!
And I know my stories are items that people put in scrapbooks.

Calvary Lutheran Church Helps Students Read

Pastor Jerry O’Neal ministers at Calvary Lutheran Church in Bluffton.

Pastor Jerry O’Neal ministers at Calvary Lutheran Church in Bluffton.

For the past year I’ve interviewed pastors of local churches as part of a new weekly column established by my local newspaper. This story was one of those columns. I particularly like the fact that members of the congregation have dedicated themselves to reading to children at a local school. What a vital part of the community’s needs they are addressing! Schools cannot keep up with the number of children who need read to/with. This church is helping. What can you /your church do to help children in your community?

In December 2012 the members of Calvary Lutheran Church
in Bluffton held an important congregational vote. “We voted on a new missions statement,” said Pastor Jerry O’Neal. “It is a faith statement really because at Calvary Lutheran Church Jesus is at work.”

The church, which averages 80 in attendance at worship services, approved a new outreach ministry of ‘adopting’ Lancaster Elementary School students. “We will volunteer at Lancaster in whatever ways are needed,” said O’Neal. “We will read to children, make copies for teachers, and provide refreshments for evening functions.”

Since he and his wife Amy moved their family to Bluffton in 2010, their children — Mary Grace, 14, and Andrew, 11 — have attended Norwell schools. Andrew attended Lancaster Elementary School. “I know it is a good school system and we want to support it,” said Jerry O’Neal.

A North Carolina native, O’Neal attended West Point Military Academy as a cadet after graduating from high school. The military bent was a family tradition. “Both of my grandfathers served in World War II,” he said. “One graduated from West Point. An uncle and I served together at Fort Bragg in Texas and Dad served in the National Guard.”

After graduating from West Point as an officer, O’Neal spent seven years with the Army Corps of Engineers. In 1994 he was deployed to Haiti for six weeks. His last position before being discharged in 2001 was of company commander for the 4th Infantry at Fort Hood.

Before his discharge O’Neal had thought of changing careers to become a pastor. “It was in the back of my mind since high school,” he said. “While in the military, I always attended church and served as the organist at an Episcopal church when stationed at Fort Bragg.”

Still he put it off. After his discharge, O’Neal earned a Master’s degree in operations research for math modeling. He worked a year for Delta Technology solving problems in logistics and transportation, then was employed for four years at Air Force Institution of Technology at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

He taught math at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, then pursued post-doctoral research. Though O’Neal was highly skilled in the sciences, he realized he would never be truly content until he followed his heart. “It finally seemed like the right time to become a pastor,” he said. “I was at the time of my life where I could see myself doing it long-term.”

With Amy’s support O’Neal attended Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus. Upon graduating from Trinity in 2010, Jerry O’Neal accepted the call to minister at Calvary Lutheran Church in Bluffton.

The O'Neal family has been a part of Calvary Lutheran Church since 2010.

The O’Neal family has been a part of Calvary Lutheran Church since 2010.


Calvary Lutheran Church is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America synod.

Calvary Lutheran Church’s Sunday school classes meet at 9:00 a.m. and a worship service is held at 10:00 a.m. A Catechism confirmation class meets weekly for middle schoolers. “It is a three-year process during which they learn about the Bible and Lutheran theology,” said O’Neal.

The Youth groups of Calvary Lutheran Church and St. Mark’s Lutheran church in Uniondale are led by Erin Raatz. “They meet together for Bible Studies and take summer mission trips,” said O’Neal.

Proceeds from rummage sales held at the church in April and October are distributed to local ministries, including The Closet which provides clothing for people in Bluffton.

O’Neal is thrilled with the church’s response to him, his family and the church’s goals for its future. “The congregation has welcomed us with open arms,” he said. “The church is willing to set goals to strengthen its impact on the community of Bluffton. We feel God has led us here.”

Calvary Lutheran Church
1532 N. Main St.
Bluffton
824-0177
pastorcalvary@adamswells.com
http://www.calvarylutheranbluffton.org

The End

Children Experience Worship at Bethel Church

Ron Garner and his family pastor at Bethel Church.

Ron Garner and his family pastor at Bethel Church.

“Everything we do at this church is based on the word of God,” said Ron Garner, pastor of Bethel Church in Bluffton, Indiana. He replaces Pat Harris who pastored at the church for 26 years before retiring to the South.

Garner is a native of North Carolina, but graduated from Bluffton High School in 1994 after moving here with his family when he was in the fifth grade.

After high school, Ron attended Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne but dropped out of college to work for an automotive company.

He met his wife Tonya at Bluffton High School. She attended Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne for nursing and later worked at Parkview Hospital.

After they married, Tonya and Ron attended Hope Missionary Church. Talking with Pastor Matt Hartzell about his spiritual life convinced Ron to accept Jesus Christ as his Savior. “God had brought me to the point where I finally wanted to surrender my life to serving Him,” he said.

Feeling called to pastoral ministry, Ron Garner enrolled at Taylor University-Ft Wayne where he earned a degree in Bible theology in 2004. The Garners pastored at churches in Ohio and Ron worked three years in a factory before accepting a call to minister at Bethel Church, a non-denominational congregation, in December 2012.

Sunday School classes for all ages at Bethel Church begin at 9:00 a.m. Worship services with nursery and preschool assistance begins at 10:00 a.m.

Children are an intentional part of the worship experience at Bethel. “We want kids to learn how to worship with their parents and view their parents as primary spiritual instructors,” said Garner. “For that purpose I always try to engage kids during the services.”

A Bible Study for adults, youth meetings and children services occur on Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m. The Garners, who have four school-age children, plan to move to Bluffton when their home in Ohio is sold.

Garner’s goal in preaching to the 70-member congregation at Bethel is to help them reach the place where they understand God is in control. “I’ve learned that He can use things for his glory and equip us how to live faithfully,” he said. “We must not run away from challenges to our faith but engage scripture and always stand firm with an answer for what we believe in.”

During his seven months at Bethel, Garner has become excited by the congregation’s friendliness. “There is a great sense of family here and people who love Christ and are committed to the authority of the Bible,” he said. “We invite people to visit us who seek a place with a family atmosphere and who want to hear what God has to say.”

Bethel Church
4500 E 300 South
Bluffton
260.824.4547

The End
This article appeared in the Bluffton News-Banner.