Lenoir man may be state's oldest living WWII veteran

Jul. 20, 2013 @ 06:38 AM

Roughly 50 veterans and family members rose from their seats, applauding Amos Rutherford, who smiled at the flashing cameras and the growing roar that filled the room.

Rutherford, 99, was recognized Thursday night for his service in World War II and for being the oldest living WWII veteran in Caldwell County and probably in all of North Carolina.

Along with a certificate acknowledging his service, he was given a shining hunting knife.

He was honored along with 13 other Caldwell County WWII veterans at the Installation and Awards Banquet for the Lenoir American Legion Post 231 and Hudson Post 392 Thursday night.

Asked whether he was happy about being the oldest WWII veteran in North Carolina, he said, “I reckon I must be. I’m still alive.”

Rutherford was born March 15, 1914, in the Bridgewater/Lake James area of Morganton and made it only through the third grade before leaving school.

He joined the military in July 1942, serving as a private first class in the 853rd Port Company of the U.S. Army, earning an American Theatre Service Medal, a Good Conduct Medal and a Victory Medal.

After returning to North Carolina in 1946, Rutherford went to work at Mullis Motor Company in Morganton, and then spent more than 30 years working at the Esso Exxon station in Lenoir for his closest friend, Don Campbell.

American Legion Department of North Carolina Commander Patricia Harris, who attended the banquet to honor the WWII veterans, said, “To see a 99-year-old World War II vet smiling and aware is just awesome – it’s just awesome.”

The Legion also honored World War II veterans Fred C. Cooke, 93; Walter C. Callis, 86; Joseph C. Setzer, 87; Earl Rader, 93; and nine more who could not be at the banquet.

James David Roberts, a recently deceased Caldwell County WWII veteran, was posthumously awarded a certificate acknowledging his service.

Post 231 was also recognized and awarded for being the fastest-growing Legion post in the county, and received a special award for exceeding its 2012-13 target, gaining 140 percent of their new member goal.

The legion surprised the Rev. Jim Norwood with an award for 55 years of continued service to Post 231.

The two posts worked together on the awards banquet, the first time in Caldwell County that two posts held a joint banquet honoring the WWII veterans.