Family shares fond memories of their decorated war hero - Tri-State News, Weather & Sports

Family shares fond memories of their decorated war hero

Family shared this picture of Compton, who is on the right. Family shared this picture of Compton, who is on the right.
Ross and his wife of 59 years, Betty. Ross and his wife of 59 years, Betty.

There's was a gathering Tuesday night to remember a Marine who fought in World War II at Iwo Jima and was one of the Chosin Few during the Korean War. 

Ross Compton shielded his family from his war stories for much of his life, but when he did open up, they were all ears.

Compton is a decorated war hero, and although he passed away over the weekend, his family tells 14 News that they still feel his presence because he dedicated his life to helping others.

As they prepare for his burial with full military honors, they discovered old photographs that begin to shed light on his untold war stories.

Judith Young, Compton's only daughter, holds tight to fond memories of her dad. She says he dedicated his life to the service and to serving others. 

With the encouragement of Jim Grimm, a teacher at Bosse High School, Compton enlisted in the Marines. During World War II, he served at Pearl Harbor and at Iwo Jima.  

Compton landed at Mt. Suribachi in 1945 at the height of the 36-day battle. 

"There wasn't but two boats of the Marines, but they took the island. That's where the flag was raised at Iwo Jima. My father was at the bottom of the hill," Young told 14 News.

Years later, Compton was called to serve again, this time in Korea. 

"They called him pappy because he was the oldest," Young said.

Compton led the Marines through the coldest winter Korea had seen in more than a century.

"Grandpa said that you learn to march because you marched so many hours and it was so very cold. He would begin to tell them don't lay down. He fathered a lot of those young soldiers and lost a lot of these young guys," Compton's granddaughter, Angie McGee said.

Compton spent 14 months in a fox hole. Historians have written his handling of a machine gun during a fire fight saved the day and they were able to take a prisoner. 

"I'm sure he took a lot of stories with him that he's never shared with anyone," McGee said.

Compton later worked for the U.S. Postal Service and enjoyed his 22 grand, great-grand and great-great-grandchildren. 

Although he's gone, his legacy lives on in Evansville. Compton was instrumental in getting the Korean War Monument built on the riverfront. His name is a permanent fixture on a place he cherished.  

"It meant the world to him. He'd rather do that than anything else. He dedicated his life to others," Compton's grandson, Jonathan Ross Compton, shared with 14 News.

He was married to his wife, Betty Compton, for 59 years before she passed away in 2006. Family members say there's peace knowing he's returned to her. 

"She was his life. Everybody should have a mate that loves you that much. He talked about how when God called him, he wanted to go be with mommy, that's what he called her," McGee said.

Visitation for Compton is Tuesday night at the Boone Funeral Home on Washington Avenue. His family welcomes the public to his funeral Wednesday morning at 10:00, also at Boone Funeral Home. He will be buried at St. Joseph Cemetery where the Vanderburgh County Retired Veteran's Club will perform military rites.

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