Leslie Joseph Mendenhall, son of Edward Albert and Bessie Jane (Gardner) Mendenhall, was born on July 8, 1917, in Erskine, Minnesota. He departed this life on January 17, 2011, at Texas County Memorial Hospital in Houston, Missouri, at the age of 93 years, six months and nine days.
Les and his eight siblings knew a tough life growing up in the depression. His father worked in the timber while his mother kept the home. As a young boy, Les attended school and worked cutting wood, farming and odd jobs.
At the age of 18, Les served in the Civilian Conservation Corps from 1935 to 1937. Les enlisted in the Army on January 17, 1938. He served as a communications chief, radio repairman, and communications technician. While serving in the Aleutian Islands he helped to construct prefabricated buildings. He was qualified as a rifle expert and a sharp shooter.
During his career in the service Les received numerous medals and ribbons. These included the Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II medals, Germany Occupation Medal, Berlin Airlift Device, National Defense Service Medal, Medal for Humane Action, and the Air Force Longevity Service Award Ribbon.
Les met the love of his life, Ruth, while she was also serving in the military. Les and Ruth Lillian Woodside were united in marriage on December 18, 1944, at Franklin, Indiana.
During his service career Les served in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater, European Theater, Germany and France. Les spoke fluent German while Ruth spoke fluent French. Of all the countries Les had been, Germany was his favorite. After 24 years, Les retired from the Air Force on September 30, 1962, at the rank of master sergeant. He remained in the Air Force reserves, retiring fully on March 17, 1968.
Les and Ruth spent many of their retirement years living in California and Texas. He was an avid gardener and enjoyed tending his gardens for many years. Les and Ruth did not have children but instead enjoyed a life with their beloved pets, Heidi 1 and Heidi 2, which were dachshund dogs. They enjoyed traveling and visiting family. Ruth departed this life on December 6, 2000.
Les later moved to Arkansas and then, in April 2005, moved to Cabool, Missouri, to live with his niece, Faith Lane and husband David. One of his favorite pastimes was to sit on the porch and bird watch with David and Faith. Les enjoyed visiting with his great-niece, Lisa, and great-nephews, Jamie and Mike. He was always pleased to see their children, his great-great-nephews and great-great-niece, Jonathon, Cory, Ryan, Mariah and Garrett. He especially looked forward to seeing his brother, Eugene and wife Betty, and his niece, Betty Hill, who would travel to Missouri every July to help celebrate his birthday which would include a meal at his favorite restaurant, El Imperial.
Les will be greatly missed by his family, especially his niece, Faith, who oversaw his care during the last years of his life.
Les is survived by two brothers, Leo Eugene Mendenhall and wife Betty of Niles, Michigan, and Alois “Loy” Mendenhall and wife Helen of Alamogordo, New Mexico; numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Edward and Bessie Mendenhall; four brothers, John, Harold, James, and infant Ivan Richard Mendenhall; and two sisters, Grace Walker and Hazel Bielick.
A private viewing for the family was held Saturday, January 22, 2011, at Elliott-Gentry-Carder Funeral Home of Cabool, Missouri. Interment with full military honors will be held at 10:30 a.m. Monday, January 31, 2011, at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas.