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US war veteran honoured

TIME and the effects of lymphoma may have slowed John C. Fatherree of Grove down, but for a brief moment on Monday, the war veteran who had previously served in the Solomons, snapped to attention as he was honoured for his service.

On Monday, Jan. 9, Fatherree, joined by his wife Charlene, and daughters Carrie Connor, Karen Raven and Vicki Cook, was presented with a certificate of appreciation a small group from the Veterans of Foreign War Post 8380 in Grove.

"We like to find veterans and honor and recognize them [for their service]," explained Dr. Robert Hopper, part of the three-member delegation.

Hopper, along with Larry Brown and John Ryburn, made the bedside presentation, joking with the U.S. Navy veteran they were just three army guys.

Hopper and Ryburn served in the Vietnam War, while Brown served in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Fatherree smiled and shook hands with the men, as they presented the honor. The men made the presentation in Fatherree's home, where he is being cared for by his family and members of the Good Shepherd Hospice team.

About Fatherree

Fatherree, 93, joined the U.S. Navy within two weeks of the battle at Pearl Harbor.

The Hot Springs, Arkansas native often talked about arriving in Hawaii when the debris was "still smoking" according to his wife.

The young naval officer was assigned to the U.S. Lexington.

He eventually found his way to Stirling Island, the smaller island of the Treasury Islands, Solomon Islands.

From there, Fatherree would tell his family he helped maintain runways and aid pilots who were landing planes on the coral reef.

Carrie Connor recalls how her father would joke about the guys drinking "torpedo juice" or moonshine made from the diesel of the planes.

At night, while drinking their torpedo juice, Fatherree said the men would try to watch movies - until a Japanese pilot, nicknamed "Washing Machine Charlie" would fly overhead.

Connor said her father said the plane made a noise like a washing machine - and gave the men enough time to hide in the roots of the Banyan trees on the island.

"He would say it would ruin the movie night," Connor said.

After serving for four years in the Navy, Fatherree returned to Arkansas. In 1950 he found himself moving to South Gate, California, to work in the Firestone Rubber & Tire Plant.

It was while he lived in California that Fatherree met his wife, Charlene.

The couple, who will be married for 50 years in May, moved to the Grove area in 1987. The couple had one daughter, Carrie, who joined Fatherree's twins, Karen and Vicki, from a previous marriage.

Fatherree worked for Firestone until a surgery caused him to retire in 1972. He then made a career out of building houses.

– By Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller @ [email protected]

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