- 95 years old
- Date of birth: Feb 16, 1920
- Date of passing: Apr 3, 2015
|Love and memories last forever...|
Wilbert S. Shea passed away on Friday, April 3, 2015 at the Friends Village in Woodstown, N.J. He was 95 years old. Wilbert was the youngest of George Hilliard Shea and Mary Rebecca Neale Shea's five children. His older siblings were Elizabeth, George, Harry, and Howard.
Wilbert was born February 16, 1920 and spent his early childhood on the Shea farm on the south end of Mullica Hill. His mother Mary, widowed when Wilbert was two years old, moved the family to 10 Earlington Avenue in 1927.
The home remained in the Shea family for 84 years, when Wilbert moved into Friends Village.
In 1940, Wilbert followed his brothers Harry and Howard to Texas A&M University, where he attended classes both before and after the war. He left A&M to enlist in the Army in 1942. He was assigned to the 95th Infantry Division which was training at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. There, he first met Martha Nell Tate, a young Texan nurse who would later become his wife.
In October 1944, the 95th Division, part of Patton's Third Army, entered combat in eastern France in the Moselle River valley. In heavy fighting, the 95th Division liberated numerous small towns and the city of Metz before advancing across the Saar river into Germany. Wilbert was decorated with the Purple Heart, Silver Star, and Bronze Star. After being wounded in the leg by a rifle bullet, he made a name for himself by going AWOL from a field hospital to return to his unit so he would not be left behind. Wilbert ended the war as Heavy Weapons Company Commander in the 2nd Battalion, 378th Infantry Regiment.
At the age of 84, Wilbert returned to the Moselle with fellow members of the 95th Division at the invitation of the local French residents whom they had liberated 60 years earlier. He described this trip as one of the most memorable in his life, as he and his fellow aging soldiers were honored in a weeklong celebration.
Following his discharge in November 1945, Wilbert began a correspondence with the young nurse who captured his eye four years before, and on September 19, 1947, Wilbert and Martha were married at Valley Forge, PA. In due course, three children arrived; Paula in 1950, Ann in 1951, and John in 1953. The house at Earlington Avenue was a busy place; Fourth of July picnics, holiday dinners, the annual rabbit hunt, and many visiting family members coming to see Grandmother.
In 1948, Wilbert began a long career at the Mobil Oil Company refinery in Paulsboro, working in the research department managing the records and documents in a time before computers. Needless to say, he was a very organized person! He retired in 1980 after thirty-two years of service.
Wilbert (and Martha) were charter members of American Legion Post #452, and he served as treasurer for over forty years. Before every Memorial Day, he placed flags on the graves of veterans throughout the area. He did this until the age of 89 when a mild heat stroke forced him to give up this duty.
Wilbert enjoyed camping, canoeing, working on airplanes with Harry and his friend Jim Kirby, and road tripping across the States. Numerous family vacations were taken to Texas to see Martha's family, and memorable camping trips with friends and family in New Jersey, Maine, and Colorado.
He had a very strong work ethic and was always busy taking care of the large property at Earlington Avenue. He was also extremely frugal, which made him the consummate do-it-yourselfer! Rarely was anyone hired to do a task that he did not at least try to tackle first.
In 1969, Martha was diagnosed with cancer, and passed away in April 1972 after a difficult two year illness. Wilbert began a long friendship with Eleanor Gravenstein, a widow of a work colleague. They enjoyed each other’s company for many years, and travelled overseas with Friendship Force, a global friendship organization.
Wilbert was a long-time member of the Mullica Hill Friends (Quaker) Meeting, where he was active within the church. His ashes will be spread in the Friends Cemetery, together with Martha, under the large spruce tree he planted in her memory in 1972.
Wilbert remained in the family home in Mullica Hill until 2011 when he moved to Friends Village in Woodstown. Paula, her husband Raymond, and daughter Courtney provided many years of support for Wilbert as he began to age, and for which he was forever grateful.
Wilbert was preceded in death by his wife, Martha Tate Shea, four siblings; Elizabeth Langley, George Shea, Harry N. Shea, and Howard Shea, his youngest daughter, Martha Ann Henson, and his long-time friend and traveling companion, Eleanor Gravenstein. He is survived by his daughter, Paula (Raymond) Crispin, of Alloway, N.J.; son John Shea (Cindy) of Bainbridge Island, Washington, and four grandchildren; Courtney Crispin, Sarah Shea, Joanna Shea, and Greg Shea. Ann's husband, Tim Henson, remains close to the family in Longmont, Colorado.
Contributions may be made to the Wounded Warrior Project at www.support.woundedwarriorproject.org
"My thoughts and prayers are with the family during this time of loss. Wilbert was one of my favorite Quakers and I will always think of him when I see Mullica Hill Friends Meeting. His life, both in the Military and as a Friend demonstrated what a truly remarkable person he was. God Bless you Wilbert Shea."
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