The Greatest Generation lost one more
To all that served at any time, salute!
Shifty Powers of ‘Band of Brothers’ fame dies
Richlands News Press: News >
Fri Jun 19, 2009 - 04:32 PM
By CAITLIN SULLIVAN/Staff
Even as an adult, Margo Johnson would find fake fuzzy spiders in her bed and shower. And they still scared her, much to father’s glee.
The 56-year-old said she and her father always played pranks on one another, even recently, after her father, Darrell Powers, was diagnosed with cancer in January 2008.
Powers, better known as Shifty and more widely known thanks to a book and television series featuring him and other World War II soldiers, died June 17. He was 86.
“Daddy had a very unique personality,” Johnson said. “He was always interested in everything. He loved reading and fishing and hunting.”
Powers made sure his kids, Johnson and his son, Wayne, got to spend plenty of time with him in the outdoors, trout fishing and squirrel hunting.
“He spoiled us,” Wayne said.
Even if they made a mistake, Johnson said, he was easy going.
“He always said about me that I didn’t pay attention and I talk too much,” she said. “One time I drove right through the garage door. I don’t know why I did it but I don’t think he was surprised.”
The men who served with Powers during World War II remember him in the same light.
“I can’t recall ever seeing him real angry at anything, I can’t remember him ever saying a mean thing to anyone,” said friend and fellow service member Earl “One Lung” McClung of Colorado. “He was a real Southern gentleman and kind-hearted to everyone. We were real good friends.”
McClung said he and Powers had a chemistry, a way of making people laugh.
“Everybody said we should take our show on the road because we were pretty funny,” McClung said. “We’d just pick something right out of the blue and start talking about it. We’d go back and forth teasing and get people laughing.”
That was before the world knew of McClung and Powers and the rest of the men of the 101st Airborne’s 2nd battalion, 506th regiment, E Company. Easy Company. The Band of Brothers. And it was a Powers his own kids didn’t get to know until after the 1992 Stephen Ambrose book “Band of Brothers, E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne: From Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.”
Johnson said when her father talked about the war, it was funny stories, mostly about his buddies.
“Some of the guys would come to visit and they’d tell funny stories but never anything about it,” Wayne Powers said. “He never talked about it or dwelled on it.”
Neither Johnson nor her brother had heard many of the stories of their young father’s life as a soldier until after the book came out.
“They only told us the basics,” he said. “Nobody other than these guys know everything about it. I’m sure there are things that they did that nobody will ever know about other than these guys.”
“I learned about another part of him,” Johnson said.
The book tells of Easy Company’s history, from it’s jump into Normandy on D-Day, to its parachuting into Market Garden, its hunkering down at Bastogne and its final role at the end of the war.
“He always said they were just a very small part of the war,” Johnson said. “He doesn’t know why Steve Ambrose chose him to write about.”
But the book and subsequent television series “Band of Brothers,” which came out in 2001, gave Powers a measure of fame. He used it as an opportunity to talk to kids at schools, Johnson said. Fans of the series also kept Powers’ mailbox full.
“I’m sure there are letters still at the post office,” she said. “He had people from all over the world come to his house. Everybody felt like they knew him.”
But they only know the one presented in the book or series.
They don’t know the boy who earned his nickname, according to Johnson, during his days on the Clinchco High School basketball team.
(Former comrade-in-arms Bill “Wild Bill” Guarnere of South Philadelphia said he thought the name came from a liquor-running past. “I remember Shifty in the 3rd Platoon,” he said. “He got his name back in the bootlegging days, moonshining.” It’s a story Powers’ son dismisses as those guys having a lot of tales).
They know, partially at least, of the fabled marksman.
“He was an excellent shot, the best,” Guarnere said. “You knew Shifty was there but he was a quiet man.”
They don’t know the ex-soldier who worked as a machinist for Clinchfield Coal Co.
They don’t know the cancer patient, still strong enough to tend two gardens.
And they don’t know the man who would have marked his 60th wedding anniversary to wife Dorothy come October, the same month Easy Company survivors will celebrate the outfit’s 62nd reunion in Columbus, Ohio.
“‘Band of Brothers’ doesn’t define my dad; it’s part of him,” Wayne Powers said. “He was so much more.”
Wayne Powers said the best part of the series was that his father got to spend time with his old buddies.
Several years ago McClung visited Powers’ home in Clinchco and they practiced shooting M1s.
“I’m just going to miss him, that’s all.”
Johnson said her father kept a busy schedule up until the end. Two years ago, he visited soldiers stationed in South Korea and Japan. Last September, had he not fallen ill, he would have traveled to Iraq.
He kept a busy schedule up till the end. Two years ago, he visited soldiers in South Korea and in Japan. Last September, had he not fallen ill, he would have made a stop in Iraq.
“I had his suitcase packed,” Johnson said.
Missing the trip overseas disappointed him, she said, especially the worry of disappointing the soldiers there.
“My daddy was a simple man, not complicated and very comfortable with himself and approachable,” Johnson said. “He spoiled us. Right now I don’t feel as safe. I know I’ll never be as loved.”
Powers’ family will receive friends Friday from 5 to 7:30 p.m., followed by a song service at 7:30 p.m. in the Mullins Funeral Home chapel in Clintwood, Va. Funeral services are scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m. with Pastor Randy Moore officiating. Military honors will be conducted by Francis Marion VFW Post 4667 at the graveside services at Temple Hill Cemetery.
Online email condolences may be made at email@example.com .
To contact Caitlin Sullivan e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (276) 628-7101.
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