Cover photo for Earle W. Stephenson's Obituary
Earle W. Stephenson Profile Photo
1919 Earle 2008

Earle W. Stephenson

August 8, 1919 — December 6, 2008

Earle William Stephenson was born in the rural hamlet of Hanlin Station, Pa. on Aug 8, 1919. His parents were Harry Bemis and Nellie M. (nee Barker) Stephenson. Earle was their only child. At a young age Earle's family moved to Shady Glen, a rural area near Toronto, Ohio, so that his father could work in the nearby steel mill at Weirton, West VA. His mother operated a small grocery store in their house with a gasoline pump just outside, a great place for the local farmers to visit and swap yarns. Earle worked for various farmers as a young boy. He attended a one room school house, just down the road, through the eighth grade. Because he was intelligent he was advanced two grades in this school. His high school education took place in Toronto, Ohio, where he played trumpet in the high school band and also participated in a small dance band. Since he attained the height of six feet four inches, and was a good looking young man, he made an imposing figure when he graduated at the young age of 16 in 1938. It was necessary to go to work, but was difficult at such a young age. He was able to manage it by producing proof of graduation to cause employers to assume he was 18, and then he was launched for a long and interesting journey through a variety of careers. Earle soon found employment with the gas company as a meter reader in Toronto, Ohio. During this period in his life he met and married a sweet lady, Mary Jane Hand, from the nearby town of Wellsville, Ohio. They married in 1941 and soon had a daughter, Jethred. While working for the gas company in Toronto, a friend alerted him to a job opportunity at the then Patterson Field air base in Springfield, Ohio. Since he had a great fascination with aircraft, he readily went to apply, was hired on the spot and had the weekend to relocate his small family in Springfield. At Springfield he took some courses in mechanical engineering through Ohio State University and became skilled at fabrication and installation of aircraft sheet metal parts. His skills were also used to teach some classes in this field of work. By this time the United States had entered WWII so Earle chose to serve his country by joining the Army Air Corps 21 Jan 1943 and served in all enlisted grades through Technical Sergeant. He was sent to Shang-ri-la Field in California for training and then to the European theater of operations where he served from 13 November 1943 to 20 November 1945. He served in Anzio and Rome Arno campaigns in Italy, continuing in his skills in sheet metal repair and maintenance of the bombers used in the war effort. He achieved the rank of Technical Sergeant in the 88th DEP repair squadron. Following his return home from service in Italy he was separated from the Army Air Corp and moved his family to Wellsville, Ohio. Earle then had a variety of positions with a pottery in Wellsville, a steel mill in Weirton, West VA, and then as supervisor of a body shop at Carroll Motor Sates in East Liverpool, Ohio. He enlisted in the Ohio Army National Guard and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant on 2 Feb 1949 and was assigned to Company C, 137th Tank Battalion as a Platoon Leader, remaining in his assignment till 27 Nov 1952. While attending Armor School, Fort Knox, KY as a student officer, he was placed on active duty with the 37th Infantry Division. Subsequently he was assigned to the Far East Command 27 Nov 1952 and served with the 23rd Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea as a Tank Platoon Leader, Battalion Motor Officer, Regimental Motor Officer, and Transportation Officer. Upon release from active duty he rejoined the National Guard 16 Feb 1954 and was assigned to the 137th Tank Battalion where he served as Battalion Adjutant and later as Battalion Executive Officer in Ashtabula, Ohio, until his retirement from service in the Ohio National Guard on 14 May 1965. Major Earle W. Stephenson was retired from distinguished service with full military honor and much pomp and ceremony held at a football field in Ashtabula with a large crowd in attendance. The ceremony included an impressive, and rare, flyover of jets. For his outstanding service during WWII he was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, European African Medal, and Eastern Campaign Medal with 2 bronze stars, WWII Victory Medal, National Defense Ribbon and American Campaign Ribbon. During the Korean conflict he was awarded the United Nations Ribbon, Korean Service Medal and Combat Infantry Badge. While serving in the National Guard in Ashtabula Earle took employment with the Molded Fiber Glass Company in that city in 1959, serving in several positions. He was hired on as a plant manager of Plant 6, the sheet plant. He then went on to be a quality control liaison, cost reduction coordinator, manufacturing superintendent, and manager of manufacturing and quality control. During his years in Ashtabula, Earle worked his way through the degrees of Freemasonry to attain the 32nd Degree in the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in the Valley of Cleveland, Ohio. He was also active in the community, serving on several boards, including the Goodwill Industries. As busy as he was he did occasionally steal a few hours to relax at his favorite fishing hole. On 2 Nov 1974 Earle lost his beloved wife Mary Jane, who succumbed to a heart attack, a complication of diabetes. She was only 56 years of age but they enjoyed 33 years of a very happy union. Earle later met and married Thelma Byrd from Willoughby, Ohio. They were married in September 1975 and they began to make plans for their retirement in Florida to fulfill his lifelong dream. Earle then retired from Rockwell International, as Molded Fiber Glass became known, on Sept 1, 1976. Earle and Thelma made their move to Port Charlotte, Florida, to the house owned by his mother since the 1950's. So, Earle was no stranger to Port Charlotte. Here he was able to indulge in his passions of fishing and gardening. They joined the First Baptist Church of Port Charlotte and enjoyed a busy social life revolving around his church activities. Earle became very involved in his church life and was ordained as a deacon on 7 Feb 1988. Life was good until his dear Thelma passed away on 27 December 2005. Earle completed his life peacefully on the morning of Saturday, December 6, 2008, at the age of 89 years. He will be greatly missed by his only child, a daughter, Jethred Arlene (Will) Gaskell of Port Charlotte and Great Falls, MT; granddaughters, Heather (Flint) Collis of Selah, WA and Polly (Tim) Herron, of Moxee WA; great granddaughters, Amy (Gary) Turner, of Yakima WA; Christine Herron, of Moxee, WA; Sadie Collis of Selah, WA; great great grandson Kayden Turner of Yakima, WA. Other survivors include stepdaughters Etta Krispin, of Port Charlotte; Clara Hawley, of Highland Heights, OH; Sylvia (Clint) Hamrick, of Madison OH; Glenda (Ron) Brown, of Novelty, OH; Judy (Ken) Conley, of Dayton, OH. Nineteen step-grandchildren also survive along with many step great grandchildren and great great grandchildren. Visitation will be held 10:00-11:00 am Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at First Baptist Church of Port Charlotte with the service in celebration of Earle's life following at 11:00 with Pastors Bob Carlson and Bill Frank officiating. To express condolences to the family, please sign the online gust book.

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Service Schedule

Past Services


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)

First Baptist Church - Port Charlotte

20035 Quesada Avenue, Port Charlotte, FL 33952

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