Saturday, November 20, 2010

WWII War Hero Passes Quietly - Lindsey "Zeb" Wilcox



On November 18th, 2010, one week after Veterans Day, Mr. Lindsey “Zeb” Wilcox made his final goodbyes and passed on to Davy Jones’ locker to join his lost USS Indianapolis shipmates, albeit via DeQuincy, Louisiana - his birth place. I like to think Baytown, Texas was his hometown though.

On November 17, the evening before, I sat in the parlor at Navarre’s funeral home and watched the procession of family friends, Masons, his fellow Lion’s Club members, and church folks form a line to condole their prayers, support, and warmth on Mr. Wilcox’s daughter and grandson, his lone survivors.

I was in no hurry, so I sat for about an hour and simply watched the line grow.

This was a man who was loved and I know why. He was a good man.

As his Pastor reminisced about his life and her personal experiences with him, I couldn’t help but smile. I do not claim to have known him well. Rev. Carol Turner talked about folks knowing him as “Zeb” and “Lindsey”, but I simply knew him as Mr. Wilcox. We talked many times both in person and on the phone and out of respect and deference, I always addressed him this way and he never corrected me, knowing my preference.

Three years ago, almost to the day, I sat down with Mr. Wilcox at his home to hear not only about the infamous sinking of the USS Indianapolis, but also to learn about the man and chronicle his life for such a day as today. We struck up a friendship which lasted and have had many conversations, some of which I videoed and or sound recorded for posterity. I’ve turned this material over to Heather Mills Parker, a senior at Texas A&M Galveston for her to publish in a term paper. She also interviewed Mr. Wilcox for additional information and literally fell in love with the man.
Sitting beside me at the funeral was my friend Claudius Joseph, himself a survivor of a US Navy disaster, the explosion on the gun turret of the USS Iowa and a friend too, of Mr. Wilcox. Claude was on duty that day and had been relieved of his place in the turret minutes before the explosion.

Mr. Wilcox’s shipmate, bugle master Glenn Morgan blew “Taps” and I know that was very difficult for him. Claude and I sat in silence through-out the funeral feeling a sense of deep loss. My own father had passed just days before and he too was a WWII Navy Veteran.  I had delighted in introducing Mr. Wilcox to my Dad and vice versa at my own son’s military funeral last year.

It’s been a rough couple of years for us Vets and sending Mr. Wilcox off to sea along with my Dad made me see my own mortality that much more. One by one, our WWII Vets are leaving us and the saddest thing of all is the almost total lack of fanfare most of them receive, Mr. Wilcox included. In his case, two lone enlisted-grade sailors folded a flag for him and then marched away. He should have been sent off by officer-grade sailors at the very least, but that may not have followed military protocol, I realize, but just the same.  Sometimes, the rules should be ignored and this was one of those times.

Both Claude and I were dismayed at the small amount of pomp and circumstance offered by his country and the US Navy. The man received precious little at the end for the service he endured and the great educational effort he performed in the community to keep the memory of the USS Indianapolis alive for Veterans and future generations.

We can do better than this and the man certainly deserved it. His funeral should have filled an auditorium instead of the 150 who attended and most of them should have been active and retired military and Veterans.

Hi Bert,

My name is Sara and I recently came across your article about USS Indianapolis survivor Linsey WIlcox, or Zeb, as I came to know him.

I have been working with the survivors of the organization for many years to tell their story.  Recently, I've put together a documentary; which I'm proud to say has been chosen as an official selection at the upcoming GI Film Festival in Washington DC.  Zeb was one of the 104 people we interviewed for this project.  

The reason I'm contacting you is because I'm also putting together information on Zeb's life after the war.  I have some information about the time he met and spent with Captain McVay, but I was hoping he spoke to you more about this in his final days, and that you could share any information with me about it.  Any notes or details you might have in this respect would be greatly appreciated.  I'm doing my very best to keep the Indianapolis legacy alive, and thank you, in advance, for any assistance you may be able to help me with.

And just in case you're interested, here's a link to our trailer. 

All the best,
Sara

10 comments:

Natalie said...

Thanks for writing this, Bert. I was saddened to read last week of his passing. What a remarkable member of history we have lost. I'm glad his story will live on through you and others who took the time to listen.

Anonymous said...

Very well written, thanks for all you do in our community. CJ

Anonymous said...

BERT THERE IS A WHOLE HILL WITH THOUSANDS OF CROSSES IN FRANCE THAT MOST PEOPLE DON'T EVEN KNOW ABOUTI'M GLAD ZEB WAS ABLE TO COME HOME TO HIS FAMILY AND LIVE A GOOD LIFE. KP

Anonymous said...

Well done, Bert, and deserving. you ought to submit this to the sun as a guest column... JF

Anonymous said...

This was a great article about WW11 War Hero, Mr. Wilcox. Bert, you are right our WW11 Vets are passing too fast. Sadly, most of them are in the 4th Quarter of their life, with time running out.

Bert, I enjoyed reading about all the accolades you said about Mr. Wilcox. It's great that you published it for his family and friends to enjoy. Also you let people know things we could do to help them enjoy their life reaming more. Thanks, AD

Anonymous said...

That was a very touching article. I am so saddened by Mr. Wilcox's passing..he was such a great man and I feel honored to have even met him. I just wanted to thank you again for referring me and giving me an opportunity to meet someone as wonderful as he was. Thank you.

-Heather Mills Parker

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about Zeb. I met Zeb at Cosden/Fina when he was selling knives I think for PKI. I did not know Zeb's WWII history other than working a life time for Solvay/Soltex located next door to us.

Zeb was a good salesman, very friendly and easy to deal with and a man of his word. I bought allot of knives through him.

I am glad his passing was with no pain and he will now be among his shipmates, your father, your son and many of his family and friends.

May he rest in peace and bring a smile to God's face. CK

Anonymous said...

Thank you sincerely. Cornell Hurd

Baytown Bert said...

"Semper Fi, rest in peace." DR

sgreen said...

I hate to hear about the passing of Mr. Wilcox. I am a teacher at Rider High School in Wichita Falls. I was honored by Mr. Wilcox presence at our school to recount his experience on the USS Indianapolis. I can still remember the sense of brotherhood I felt as his buddies Guy Morgan and L.D. Cox spoke to us. I was honored to visit with them privately and they were most gracious to sign a newspaper article that was written about them. I later had the article framed and it hangs in my classroom. As I teach WWII, I always point to that article and tell their story that they told me. Today as I was packing up my stuff as I do every year, I saw the framed article and again read it. I decided to look up these American heroes as I have annually done to see how they were doing. It was sad to see the passing of Mr. Wilcox. It was because of Mr. Wilcox, Mr. Morgan and Mr. Cox that I decided to ask my own Grandfather about his experience which he had not shared with anybody but my grandmother. It was one of the greatest moments of my life when he shared his experience of WWII with me and one that I will never forget. He passed away on my Birthday Sept. 29,2010. Taps played which was truly an emotional moment for me. I can only imagine the emotion for Mr. Morgan as he played Taps for his friend.I wish I could have been there for Mr. Wilcox funeral and paid my respects for his service for our country and the education he gave to our students and myself about the war. I will honor Mr. Wilcox memory all my teaching days by telling his story and the story of his brothers during WWII. Rest in Peace Mr. Wilcox and God Bless!!

Scot Green
US History Teacher
Wichita Falls Rider High School

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