The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

December 11, 2012

Veterans recall Lee’s dedication

DANVILLE — Hershall E. Lee was fond of saying, “When asking or doing something, expect results, not a miracle.”

With his dedication and determination, Lee expected results when promoting Korean War veterans and other military people — and often got them.

Lee, 81, died Monday morning at the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System.

“Without Hershall, there wouldn’t be much of a remembrance for Korean War veterans,” fellow veteran Ray Nasser said Monday.

“He was basically responsible for getting the first chapter (of the Illinois Korean War Veterans Association) organized in Danville. He was the one who pushed others to get the chapter going.”

Lee, Marylon Palmer and Howard Varner formed the chapter in 1987, naming it after the first local person to die in the Korean War — Marine Robert E. Wurtsbaugh of Danville, a childhood friend of Lee’s.

In the early 1990s, the chapter was the largest in the United States, Nasser said, adding, “That’s to Hershall’s credit because of his pushing people to become members.”

Lee, who served in the Fifth Air Force out of Seoul in 1952-53, was the first president of the state association and was national director from 1988-91.

He also was proud of his license plate with a No. 1 — the first issued to honor Korean War veterans. Then-state Rep. Bill Black sponsored the plates in 1993 after Lee brought the idea to him.

Nasser said the Korean War plates led to other special plates for veterans.

Lee pushed for other memorials to honor those who served in the war from 1950-53, including the bridge that crosses Ellsworth Park — the Illinois Korean War Memorial Bridge. It was the first memorial in the state to honor Korean War veterans.

In addition, he initiated naming of the Illinois Korean War Memorial Highway — Illinois Route 1 from Chicago to Cave in Rock — which Black sponsored. He also arranged for installation of the Curtis G. Redden plaque at Redden Square in 2006.

Lee has received numerous awards for his dedication to veterans’ issues.

Earlier this year, he received the Air Force Salutes Award, on behalf of the 347th Recruiting Squadron, in recognition of his dedication in communicating the Air Force’s message of service to country to local youth.

Last month, Lee, a past commander, was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Curtis G. Redden American Legion Post 210. The award goes to an outstanding person who has gone beyond the norm in terms of service on the local, state and national level.

Bud Hinrichs, finance officer with Post 210, helped Lee with projects at the post, including compiling the history. Considering all that Lee did for the community, it’s going to be hard to replace him, he said.

“Hershall did a lot of work for armed services people,” Hinrichs said. “He dedicated his services to them. It’s going to be hard to get somebody to follow his shoes.”

Hinrichs, a Vietnam veteran, added, “He was a good friend.”

Legion members will form an honor guard at the visitation and perform military rites at the funeral.

Frank Atwood, post commander, credited Lee with drawing attention to veterans’ issues, not just those affecting Korean War vets.

“Everything he did had something to do with the veterans, something to be proud of,” he said. “He was there to show what the veteran stood for and that they should be honored.”

Lee also made sure the 60th anniversary of the Korean War was recognized, and donated items for a display at the Danville Public Library. He was named a Department of Defense ambassador for the anniversary, 2010-13.

In addition, he served on the committee that established the Korean/Vietnam memorials on Hazel Street, which was dedicated in 1986. After that, he joined a group supporting a national monument. He also helped bring in the airplane that sits near Gilbert and Main streets from Chanute Air Force base.

Lee was trustee with the Illinois Korean Memorial Association, based in Springfield.

Besides caring about veterans’ issues, Lee also was founder of the Fairchild Grade School Cornerstone Project and established the school’s annual reunions. He was a graduate of Eastern Illinois University.

Lee spent most of his working years in the field of supervision and management for Allied Signal.

Arrangements are being handled by Sunset Funeral Home.


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