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Grace Webster

The Boy from Nebraska

Gary lived life on his own terms.  He knew at an early age what he wanted to do with his life and pursued his dreams with a passion.  Most importantly, he wanted to fly planes, and like his father and five brothers, he wanted to serve his country.   Following in his brother, Lile’s (class of ’52) footsteps, he entered The United States Military Academy at West Point in July of 1957.  The Howitzer states, ”Gary was blown east from the wind swept plains of Nebraska with the rest of the corn.”   He was proud of his Midwestern roots, and loved to tell stories of growing up in the railroad town of North Platte, NE, a major switching station for the cross country Union Pacific Railroad.  He jokingly said, “You know you’re from Nebraska when your first job is de-tasseling corn.”  Because of his small stature, his rows were always bent.  

Growing up in a large family, Gary did not get to know his older siblings well, with the eldest being twenty-two when he was born.  When his brother, Ronald, a cook on a naval carrier, came home on leave, Gary discovered that spaghetti and meatballs didn’t just come from a can.  His sister, Beth and his mother used to stroll him down to the North Platt Canteen, where they served snacks to the troops passing through during the war years.  His remained closest to his brother, Phil, just three years older, and was known as “Phil’s shadow” in the early years.  Walking down the alley with his friends, he was given permission to follow as long as he stayed a half block behind.  One of the favorite games for most little boys during the war years was to play soldier.  Right across the street from the Webster house, they played in an open field. Once, when someone yelled, “Hit the dirt!”  Gary fell so hard, he had to get stitches in his knee, a scar he carried for the rest of his life.  A favorite game was to dig trenches, cover them with cardboard and dirt and see how fast they could dig out.  The bigger boys managed to dig out fairly quickly, but Gary remained buried, while the older boys went on home. When Phil arrived home, Mother Webster asked, “Where’s Gary?”  This incident was forgotten for most of his life until big brother recounted the story in later years and he developed late-onset of claustrophobia. .

During his senior year in high school, something happened that Gary thought might threaten that dream to attend West Point.  It was a week before the senior prom, and he was out driving around on Highway 30 just west of town next to KODY Radio Station with the “Infamous Five”, his group of friends since grade school.  All of a sudden, their brains left them when they saw “Horse Thief Harry” hanging from a western souvenir store. They stopped across the street and looked at the mannequin hanging on a rope, and got the idea that Harry should be at the Senior Prom Dance.    Without saying a word, they cut him down, landing with a big thud on top of the car.  Then they quickly stuffed him into the crowded back seat, with his legs hanging out the window, and sped away, the local police following in close pursuit.  Consequently, all five of them were taken to the police station where one of the parents was called to come rescue them.  After hearing their story in a court of law, a local attorney got them off as long as they returned Harry after the graduation dance. Harry was later returned with the help of a “Squirt “ truck. All were concerned that this prank would stop Gary’s appointment to West Point.

Pursuing his dreams was not always easy.  Gary’s father died when he was just eleven, and being the youngest of seven, he and his mother supported each other until graduation from high school. When he was not included in the seven slots for pilot training at graduation from West Point, he went to the Pentagon and got his orders changed. A man of many interests and talents, he loved to dance, fly, travel, and paint everything from planes, trains and automobiles to animals, birds and cathedrals.  He was an avid reader of aviation history and sought out military museums around the world. Known for his sobriety, it never stopped him from having a good time and maintaining lifelong friendships.  He lived his life on his own terms, saying, “You only have one life to live, so find what gives you joy and pursue your passions.”













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