Local military legend passes away
Published 12:33 pm Friday, July 22, 2011
By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer
The list of leadership roles Byron White held was extensive, as he served both his country and community with distinction for 69 years. On the morning of July 22, White, a North Shelby resident, passed away after a two-and-a-half year battle with colon cancer.
R. Glenn Nivens, secretary and agent of the Blue Star Salute Foundation, said White had been with the Blue Star Salute Foundation from the beginning.
“He was a phenomenal person,” Nivens said. “I worked with him for eight to 10 years in establishing the foundation. He was our longest-term serving president.”
Nivens said that he and White had the opportunity to escort donated supplies to Germany two years ago. The supplies were sent for wounded soldiers returning home for the war.
“We were very honored to escort the donated supplies for the wounded warriors,” he said. “We bummed a ride on one of the aircrafts, and it was a fascinating experience to spend that much time with him. We have done so many things together in honor of military service members, veterans and fallen heroes. It’s beyond me to make a list of all the things we’ve done together.”
White served the U.S. Army in Vietnam for two years. He earned the Combat Infantry Badge, Silver Star, Soldiers Medal, five Bronze Stars (two for valor) and five Purple Hearts. White retired as a major after 20 years of service.
He led the Junior ROTC program at Holt High School in Tuscaloosa for 21 years.
In addition to his service and leadership in military organizations, White has been the president of the Columbiana Kiwanis Club and a Boy Scout leader in Columbiana. He was the junior vice commander for the Southeast region of the National American Legion.
White’s son, Rush White, said White was involved with the Boy Scouts because of his sons.
“He was always extremely supportive and loving,” Rush White said. “He was very involved in the Scouts for me and my brother. He took us through and sometimes forced us through. I appreciate that now, but as a child, sometimes you want to do what you want to do. We realize now how important that was.
“Despite him serving the community, he always had time for us,” he added. “I don’t know where he had the time, but if we had a problem, he took care of it. He was always there.”
Rush White called his father an “excellent handyman,” and his sister, Kate Etheredge, echoed the sentiment.
“It’s hard to put into a newspaper column how amazing he was as a dad,” Etheredge said. “He was a great dad and taught us a lot. He wanted you to know how to do things. Everyone (his children) knows how to change a tire and fix plumbing and get things done.”
White’s family was with him as he passed away from colon cancer.
“It could have been prevented if it was screened earlier,” Rush White said. “That’s part of the heartbreak.”
According to White’s obituary, he was a life member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, American Legion, VFW, DAV, Vietnam Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America and the Combat Infantry Association, as well as a member of the VA National Cemetery Support Committee, the Blue Star Salute Foundation and most recently was appointed to the Alabama Department of Veteran Affairs Board.
“I was always proud of him,” Etheredge said, “even if he hadn’t done all the things in his obituary. He was always thinking about someone else, and that’s a wonderful example to have.”
A memorial service will be held Sunday, July 24 at 2 p.m. at the American Village Chapel in Montevallo. Charter Funeral Home is directing the services.