WATERTOWN- Richard Thomas Persons, 96, passed away on Sunday December 20th, 2020. He won the victory and sang the triumph song! Dick passed away peacefully at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Syracuse. On Friday December 11th he was transferred from Samaritan Medical Center to Onondaga Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Minoa, NY. On December 17th he was transferred to the Veteran’s Hospital.
Dick was born on February 20th, 1924 in Herkimer to Hannah Jane (Jones) and Joseph Benjamin Persons. When the paper mill in Herkimer closed, due to The Depression, the family moved onto a farm in Copenhagen, NY in 1936. He graduated from Copenhagen High School in 1942.
Upon graduation from high school, he worked for the New York Air Brake, until he was drafted to serve in World War II.
After completing Basic Training at Dow Field in Bangor, Maine, and Jefferson Barracks Training Station in Missouri, he was to be sent to the European Theater. The 1943 flu ended up sending him to the Asiatic Pacific Campaign. He served with the US Army Corp of Engineers, Company B, 1906th Engineer Aviation Battalion from February 23rd, 1943 to January 15th, 1946 off the coast of Australia, in Dutch New Guinea-Philippines, and in Okinawa, Japan. He received 4- six-month service bars for his two years of service overseas, finishing his time as a T-4 (Technician Sargent). He realized how small the world really was when he standing in the chow line in Okinawa, glanced down the line, and saw one of his Copenhagen High School classmates that he graduated with. His company was staged to invade Japan, but the second atomic bomb was dropped and ended the war.
Upon arriving home from the war, he married Gladys O’Neil in May 1946. They spent many wonderful years together. She died on January 18th, 1985. A second marriage ended in 2010.
After the war Dick returned to work at the Air Brake for a short time. He then worked as the manager for the three movie theaters in Watertown. In the early 1950s he apprenticed into the Just So Print Shop and purchased the business when the owners retired. He sold the business in the early 1980s and was retired for a few years. He tired of retirement and went back to work, as the manager for Bull Brothers Gas Station, until his retirement in the late 1980s.
He was an active member of Kiwanis and a past member of the Masons. As a registered, card carrying Girl Scout, he opened and closed Camp Trefoil annually, and managed the “Village Green” at the International Girl Scout Roundup, in Button Bay, Vermont in 1959, attended by about 5,600 Girl Scouts from all over the world. He was a life member of Watertown American Legion Post #61 and Watertown Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #1400.
As a long-time member of Asbury United Methodist Church, he served as an Usher and Co-Head Usher for decades as well as a member of the Board of Trustees and Worship Committee. Many of his happiest memories involved the work and projects at Asbury. One of the closets was renamed as ‘Dick’s Office’. He could fix and remodel anything, was a “Jack of All Trades”, and truly was a master of most.
He and Gladys participated in a few annual Watertown Teacher’s Association trips, spending a week each in Freeport, Grand Bahama Island, Malaga, Spain (with side trips to Tangiers, Morocco; the Alhambra; Tarifa, Portugal; and the Rock of Gibraltar); and Greece. After retirement he spent time remodeling kitchens and he loved plumbing and carpentry. He enjoyed fishing (catch and release-he never ate them). Since “hoarding” has such a negative connotation, we will call him an “accumulator” and a “collector”. One of the high points of his life was to participate in “Honor Flight Mission 013” on April 27th, 2019 to Washington, DC, with his grandson.
Dick is survived by his daughter Bonny Lee Persons and his grandson Johnathan Joseph “JJ” Persons. He is also survived by two sisters: Grace (David) Brown, and Betty Jane (Phil) Barnhardt, along with several nieces and nephews.
He is predeceased by his parents, his wife Gladys, his siblings: Lucille Leeder, Joseph Persons Jr., Jerelene Ventiquattro, Gerald “Punk” Persons, Morris Persons (infant), and Beth Persons (infant).
He was blessed with four very special friends: Orie Phillips who he enjoyed weekly dinners with at the American Legion; Dr. Glen Snell; and Jaelah “itch” Liriano, who he would greet with “How’s Itch doing today?”. He deeply missed his closest lifelong friend, Bernard Graham, who he enjoyed daily coffee and donuts with, until Bernie’s passing.
A Memorial Service will be scheduled, at Asbury United Methodist Church, in the spring.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Capital Campaign at Asbury United Methodist Church, 327 Franklin Street, Watertown, NY 13601.
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Capital Campaign at Asbury United Methodist Church
327 Franklin Street, Watertown NY 13601