Luther Fleming, a decorated Marine veteran who served in three wars, will be remembered as a generous, soft-spoken man, his friends and family say.
Fleming, who grew up in Ryderwood, passed away Wednesday morning [July 11, 2007] in his Castle Rock home at the age of 85.
“He was a wonderful father,” said his son Paul Fleming. “He was always good to me and was always considerate of other people. He will be greatly missed.”
Caren Teigen, Fleming’s neighbor of 20 years, remembers his generosity.
“He’d help out anybody,” she said. “The neighborhood will definitely miss him.”
“I’ve known him all my life,” said former Daily News reporter Bud May, who grew up with Fleming in Ryderwood, then a Long-Bell Lumber Co. logging town, and remained a close friends with him.
“He was my idol. He was a quiet guy and a tremendous athlete,” May said. “I didn’t once hear him raise his voice. He’s just a tremendously well-known guy. I don’t know anyone else who has more admirers.”
Fleming served in three wars as a member of the Marines, excelled at sports in college, and went on to teach and coach. Always loyal to Ryderwood, he organized the first annual Ryderwood Old Timers Picnic in 1954, a tradition that marks its 53rd year Aug. 26.
Fleming joined the Marines in 1943 and saw action in the battles on Okinawa and Guam during World War II. He was a member of the Marine Raiders, an elite fighting group led by Jimmy Roosevelt, son of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
When Fleming returned from WWII, he logged for Long-Bell and almost single-handedly rebuilt the Ryderwood baseball field, which had been neglected, May recalled.
His called education was interrupted during stints as a Marine reservist in the Korean War. Later he also helped carry military supplies aboard a ship during the Vietnam War.
Fleming received a Purple Heart, along with other commendations for bravery, for his service in the Marines, according to May.
Fleming earned a master’s degree in education from Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore. While a student there, he excelled at football and baseball. He went on to teach and coach at Aberdeen, Rochester, Napavine and Toutle Lake.
He became close friends with one of his rival coaches, Primo Brusco.
“He was a great guy,” Brusco said. “He was a really good friend of mine through athletics and so forth, when I was coaching and teaching. He was an outstanding man.”
For decades, Fleming hosted annual reunions for his Marine Raiders unit. Many veterans who attended told May that they owed their life to Fleming.
“They said he just bailed them out time and again because of his courage and his willingness to put his life on the line for other people,” May said.
Paul Fleming said his father had a wide group of friends.
“I was always aware that my dad had qualities that attracted friends wherever he went. He was very proud of his Marine Corp service and relationship with his many Ryderwood friends. He would give the shirt off his back.”