Charles "Miller" Powell, 86

Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Charles "Miller" Powell.

Charles Miller Powell, 86, died Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2007, in Mountain Home, due to advanced Alzheimer's disease and respiratory arrest.

He requested only a simple graveside service and to be buried beside his wife in the cemetery in Mountain Home. That service was held on Aug. 25 with full military honors.

He was born Nov. 21, 1920, in Calvin, La., to Charles F. Powell and Tynia (Dutton) Powell. To family and friends in Louisiana, he was known as Miller, and later, his career military friends called him Charlie.

The family lived in Calvin until 1936, when they moved to Natchitoches, La. Both his mother and father taught school and his father later, had a successful career in insurance sales.

Soon after moving to Natchitoches, Miller made friends with the extended McFarland family (Charles and Virginia) who operated service stations in the city for many decades. Miller graduated from Natchitoches High School and for two years went on to study poetry and French at what was then Louisiana State Normal College. He also worked for the McFarland family and drove oil tanker trucks to fund his education.

Shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Miller volunteered for service with the United States Navy. He served in the Pacific Theatre with the 7th Seabees Naval Construction Battalion -- one of the first authorized by the US Navy. He was among the youngest members of the battalion at that time, and was one of the oldest surviving veterans of the unit at his death. In the Seabees, he became a master welder and shipfitter.

Perhaps his unit's most notable achievement was joining the U.S. Marines with the invasion of Okinawa where, in the midst of battle, the Seabees immediately began building piers, defensive structures, roadways, and air fields. Throughout the war, he declined pay and had the Navy bank it for him until his return to the U.S. At the end of WW II, he was honorably discharged and returned to Natchitoches with his savings.

He soon met Mary Aline Rabalais and they married in Natchitoches on Dec. 21, 1946. For some 22 months, he worked the oil and gas fields of southern Louisiana and west Texas, both as a welder and truck driver. He then volunteered for service with the U.S. Air Force where he would spend the rest of his career.

He served in the Korean War and the Vietnam War, serving his last tour of duty in a combat zone at age 52. Although he started as a welder in the Air Force too, he later cross-trained and was for a time a recruiter and later an avionics and automatic pilot maintenance supervisor. He retired from the service as a decorated veteran in August 1974, at the rank of senior master sergeant after serving almost 32 years of combined military service.

Over the years, the couple had three children and spent their retirement living in Mountain Home, where he worked for a time for Civil Service to help his children with their college educations. Throughout their young lives, he emphasized a strong work ethic, a goal to attain as much education as possible, and compassion toward others, his family said.

In later years, he became a master gardener and he developed a 20-tree miniature fruit orchard on his property. He and Aline produced bountiful harvests they shared with neighbors and friends as well as service organizations in the community, his family said.

Miller especially enjoyed woodworking, fishing, and the hunting of deer, ducks, geese, and upland birds. He held a great love for dogs, especially those he trained to point and retrieve birds. In his last years, he could often be found taking a nap on the living room carpet with his dogs curled beside him.

"Dad was a patriot, a husband, a father, and a friend in the truest sense of the words," said his family. "He often said until his final days that if his country were to call, he would answer again. The disease that took him from us is among life's cruelest."

He was preceded in death by Aline, his wife of 58 years, when she passed on their anniversary in 2004. Despite severe rheumatoid arthritis, Aline managed to keep the couple in their home until her death as Miller lost a progressive battle with Alzheimer's disease.

For nearly three years since, he lived in Ashley Manor in Mountain Home, where he received "extraordinary, compassionate care from their professional staff," his family said.

He is survived by: his sister, Dorann (Powell) Knoll of Arcadia, Calif., and three children, Teresa E. Cesinger of Atlanta, Texas, Charles E. Powell of Moscow, Idaho, and Dr. Madison S. Powell of Twin Falls.

He was also preceded in death by an infant brother, his half brother, Artis, brother J. Paul, and half sisters Violet and Lavenia, all of Louisiana.

The family requests that any memorials be made in his name to the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine's Good Samaritan Fund to care for sporting dogs in need. The address is P.O. Box 647010, Pullman, WA, 99164-7010.