Colonel John Max Pickarts, U.S. Army, (Ret.), passed away February 25, 2013 in Boise, Idaho, of chronic complications of a wound suffered on the battlefield of Korea. A Funeral Mass will be held at 10:30 A.M. on Friday, March 8, 2013 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 811 S. Latah St., Boise. Rev. Robert Cook will officiate. Burial will be held at a later date in Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
Max was born October 27, 1924 to Kenneth and Francis Pickarts in Highland Park (LA), California. He was raised on a family farm near Riverside, California and also attended school there. He graduated from Riverside Polytechnic High School in 1942 and attended Riverside Junior College for a few months before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps. After recruit training he went to the Raider Training Camp at Camp Pendleton and was subsequently assigned to the 2nd Raider Battalion, which saw immediate action on Bougainville, in the Solomon Islands. Later, in January 1944 all four Raider Battalions assembled on Guadalcanal, where they were disbanded and formed into the 4th Marine Regiment. Max served with the 4th Marines as a machine-gun crewman for the rest of the war and fought the Japanese on Guam and Okinawa. After Okinawa, the Division was training for the assault on Japan, but the nuclear bombs were dropped and the Japanese gave up. Max always stated the dropping of the nuclears and the subsequent surrender was one of his, and thousands of other soldiers’ most joyous moments. In August 1945, they entered Tokyo Bay in the wake of the Missouri and made their final amphibious landing to seize control of the Yokosuka Naval Base. Max returned home in January 1946 and was honorably discharged.
Next, in the fall of 1946, Max entered the University of California at Santa Barbara under the G.I. Bill. There he met his beloved wife, Bernice Ann (Bunny) Prystup and they were married in their sophomore year in 1947. Marriage brought forth four children. Max was a Goucho football player, lettering three years and was elected co-captain one of those years. He graduated from the university in June 1950 and was commissioned in the Regular Army as a Second Lieutenant of Armored Cavalry. Two days later the North Korean Army attacked the South Koreans and Max was on his way again as a member of the 2nd Reconnaissance CO, 2nd Infantry Division. The Division arrived in Korea at the end of July and went immediately into battle on the Naktong River line. But Max did not last long. He was seriously wounded while leading a platoon in a firefight on his fourth wedding anniversary and spent 7 months in various hospitals.
Eventually, he went back to duty and spent thirty exciting years in with the U.S. Army, serving in many capacities in various tank units. The family experienced two tours in Germany, thus were able to witness many countries of Western Europe during those six years. Eventually he was the commander of 77th Armor Tank Battalion (Steel Tigers) which was part of a Brigade that went to Vietnam and fought under the operational control of the Third Marine Division. He was very proud of the battalion’s performance and the fact that he was honored to have led them in battle. During his career Max was awarded, among other honors, the Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars (one with Oak Leaf), Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry w/Silver Star, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry w/Palm.
With thirty-three years of active duty and three wars under his belt, Max retired from the Army in 1980 and, with Bunny, returned to Boise where they had purchased a home during a previous assignment as Senior Army Advisor to the Army National Guard. There they enjoyed many wonderful years in retirement. Max was always a person who needed a wide variety of activities to enjoy retirement fully. He lived that creed as a volunteer for several different organizations including the Gem State Kiwanis (serving a term as President), well over 2000 hours of volunteer service for the VA Hospital (Volunteer of the Month in February 2003). [“He is so efficient that he usually has time to check on the progress of the doctor and nurses and reverting back to his ‘Colenel’ days, gives us a ‘rating’ for the day. We, the endoscopy staff, are very proud to work with Max Pickarts and greatly support him as Volunteer of the month.”
Max was very grateful to all the nurses, doctors and staff of the VA for keeping him alive and relatively healthy for 33 years so he could enjoy his retirement!] He was also an avid Boise State Football fan (BAA member), a fisherman, downhill skier, traveler, gardener, and handyman. But most important, being a faithful and loving husband to his wife who he always said was “a great Army wife and with her support made his military career enjoyable and successful.”
Survivors include his wife Bernice; son Michael of Santa Barbara, CA; daughter Judith of Boise; and twin daughters, Virginia Lyons of Boise and Rebecca Rudell (husband Kris) of Windsor, CA; six grandchildren, Kevin Michael Lyons (wife Melissa), Capt. Rachael Lyons JAG (USAF), Michael John Pickarts, Tammy Pickarts, Holly Rudell and Jessica Rudell; two great-grandchildren, Kaelyn Lyons and Payton Lyons; and brother Delfs of Ventura, CA.
Memorial contributions may be made to a favorite charity of your choice.