“Earl Lees was born in Pittsburgh on January 30, 1916, to the late William and Elizabeth Smith Lees. Earl lived a long and blessed life … 80 years, one month, and 16 days (2/16/1996). Today we are here to remember, honor, and give to him our respect.
“He is survived by his wife of nearly 49 years (Ruth) Brunner Lees, two sons, David (Linda) of Tallmadge, OH, William (Debra) of Fredericksburg, VA; and four grandchildren: Rebecca, Matthew, Rachel, and Jessica.
“Earl Lees began his adult life at age 18 upon graduating from high school during the depression years. There was no work in this area, so he left Irwin and went west, to begin his second education in the school of hard knocks. Hopping freight trains, he made stops in Idaho, where he worked at digging potatoes, to the State of Washington, where he worked on apple farms, to California, where he threshed rye and wheat, all just to eat, to sustain life.
“He was back in Irwin three years later due to his father’s ill health. After several odd jobs, he found work at Westinghouse Electric Corporation where he worked until being drafted by the Army in 1941.
“Earl was off then to war in the United States Army where he served his country in the Ninth Infantry Division, 60th Regiment, 2nd Battalion. General George Patton was his General. Earl again went through hard times spending two- and one-half years overseas in Europe fighting for his country. His Army duty took him throughout and across Europe-where he ended up in Germany. He once went three days without water in the deserts of Northern Africa. , · • .· ,
“Earl did not talk about World War II. He gladly served his country, but the memories of war were anything but pleasant to him. He received the Purple Heart Medal after being wounded in Europe. He came home to Irwin, back to his lifelong job at Westinghouse, and soon met his love, whom he married in May of 1947.
“Mr. & Mrs. Earl Lees were soul mates. They made decisions together as a team. They were together to the end. Ruth by her personal care during his long illness added a couple of years to his life by her skillful nursing.
“Earl Lees was not a flashy man, nor very talkative He was a man who excelled at the ordinary things of life. A meat and potatoes kind of man. He lived for God, his wife. and his family, friends, neighbors, and his job. Earl was loyal to all these l ‘ve mentioned.
“He was a man you could set your clock by. In forty years at Westinghouse, he was never late. He was home at 3:55 PM, supper was at 5:00 pm. His sons knew to be at the supper table at 5:00 for meat and potatoes! Earl was very dependable, predictable, and always faithful. He always had a smile. During deep snow days, the boys were awakened early to clear the driveway so that he could be at work on time.
“Earl had no enemies because he was always good to people. His yard was the best-groomed yard in Sheridan Terrace (made the local paper). He would pay his sons to pick dandelions from his yard. He made time to help his neighbors. He was not a complainer, nor did he speak badly of anyone.
“He would do for anyone and expect nothing in return. He mowed their yards, cleaned off their snow, raked their leaves.Earl Lees was a humble, sweet-spirited, God-fearing man. He shared his garden vegetables, cared for his elderly neighbors. When asked, “What do I owe you?” his answer was … “Pass it on.” That was his motto in life: “If I’ve helped you, pass it on … now you help someone.”
“A man with a song or melody, a happy man, a positive person, gentle and kind and very honest. He cared for the neighborhood children and always had a word or comment for them. To the boy down the street named Spear, he’d say: “Shake, Spear.” If you said “hey”, he’d say, “hey is for horses.” If you would say “Wait a minute,” he would respond with”Weight broke the wagon.” If you would say, “open the door” it was “Influenza” etc. So many quips!
“In earlier years he brought the Cub Scouts to Irwin. His sons cherish the memories of the things they did together. For years and years, he taught Adult Bible Classes and was an elder of his church, and serving in church repairs.
“Along more personal matters:
“Earl Lees loved his wife and family. He gave them stability. He taught them to work for a living. He gave precious memories to his grandchildren. After receiving the news of cancer, there was a family trip, where he became as a child. At the age of 79 He took a family trip to Washington D.C., MD., and NJ. All his family was present. He made that vacation a time to be remembered for the rest of their lives. He played with his grandchildren, teased them, sang to them skipped with them.
“Rebecca remembers her grandfather teaching her how to ride a bike. Jessica remembers Grandpa skipping with her. Encouraging her to be a happy child
“He was a wonderful example of what a man should be as a husband, father, grandparent, friend, and neighbor. He sang the cadence: “You had a good home but you left .. left, right, left.”
Earl has left.
Earl is not dead,
He is just away (He left)
With a cheery smile and a wave of the hand
He has left us for another land
Think of him still as the same
He is not dead – He just left us and went away.
Eulogy written by and service officiated by life long Pastor and friend of David and Linda Lees: Terry Schmelzenbach. He also ministered to Bill and I in our reconciliation process. And he served as Pastor for Ruth Brunner’s service. More later…
As we researched Earl Lees’ WWII service, we long for more information about him. In digging through old records, we found his eulogy. This actually fills in a few blanks. What was his life like before WWII? We only knew a few details.
Digging into online records, we found some interesting facts: Earl’s grandfather was named Samuel, He was born in 1854 and died in 1932. Samuel was married to Elizabeth Watts Lees, who lived from 1863 to 1932, both were from Northern Ireland. They had 10 children. Four of their sons immigrated to the United States. Earl’s father, William, arrived first, in 1906 at the age of 25. Joseph Lees arrived at age 23 (born around 1890) and Matthew Lees, was 20 (born around 1892-93). These two brother’s arrived on the Caledonia, from Londonderry, Ireland on May 12, 1913. At the time of immigration, their last place of residence was Magherafelt, Ireland. We couldn’t find any information online about the fourth brother, Joseph. David and Bill recall their dad drove them to his home in the Philadelphia area-but no one was home.
Earl’s father, William, was born August 8, 1881, in Londonderry County, Northern Ireland, UK. He died on December 30, 1938, in Irwin in the care of Earl and Samuel. Bill just learned a few years ago his grandfather’s name was William. Did Earl name his second son after his dad we wonder? Looking at all the family records, this is a common practice. Bill only recalls his dad telling him his middle name, Douglas, was in honor of General Douglas MacArthur. Bill’s youngest grandson’s middle name is Douglas, in honor of Bill!
Earl’s mother Elizabeth Smyth Lees was born in 1884 in Northern Ireland and died in 1918 in Pittsburgh – during the flu pandemic. We couldn’t find her immigration info or their marriage date. At the time of her death, she left three surviving sons. Their ages at the time: Sam was 9, John (Jack) was 7 and Earl was 2. We know their baby brother also died in 1918 of the flu. Earl RARELY spoke of his childhood.
Earl did not share any memories of his stepmother, Marian Telfer Lees. She was born on September 11, 1879, in Muirkirk, East Ayrshire, Scotland. She died August 14, 1931 (aged 51), in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. We don’t know when she married Earl’s father. They did not have any children. She brought a niece and a nephew into the marriage. No other information is known. But yet, we have this precious picture of Earl with his step mother, her niece, nephew and another unknown relative. We wonder why his dad, William, wasn’t in the picture. Was he the photographer? Or like his grandson, Bill, he hates having his picture taken!
Earl’s oldest brother was Samuel William Lees, Sr. born September 22, 1909, in Pennsylvania. He died on February 19, 1983, at the age of 73. He died in Elyria, Lorraine county, Ohio, and is buried in Ridge Hill Memorial Park, Amherst, OH. He married Edythe Harriett Kleckner about 1935. They had three children. We don’t know when he moved to Ohio, but their dad was living with him at the time of his death.
John (Jack) Lees was the second oldest brother, born September 11, 1911 in Pittsburgh, PA. He died 3/31/1974 and is buried in Irwin Union Cemetery. He never married.
As we read Earl’s letters home, he is writing to his brother Sam. He references Sambo, Sam’s son, and his daughter, Barbara. We only have 17 letters from his two years plus in the Army. Are their other letters stuffed in an attic somewhere? As we write and share this information, we do hope to learn more. But alas, there are no surviving relatives from this era.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.1 Peter 5:6-7