One was in a tank battalion known as “Patton’s Spearheaders.” The other worked on a destroyer like a destroyer’s mate.
After their service became a stone contractor. The other became a licensed plumber and plumbing supervisor for the New York City Board of Education.
Literally and figuratively, both were members of the Greatest Generation.
Walter Leather, 95, died Monday at his daughter’s home. Bob Kluttz, 97, died in the Salisbury VA. Both were World War II veterans.
We knew Leather at the Post. He was a nice man who often came to drop off letters to the editor and have a friendly conversation.
He was also an avid photographer and was known for taking pictures of things in Oak Park Retirement and making copies for all residents at his own expense. One of the last times he visited the Post, he delivered a double exposure photo with his letter to the editor that he wanted me to keep.
Leer was born in Massachusetts and served in the United States Navy during World War II. After the army, he became a plumber in New York City. He lived in Queens for 60 years before coming to Salisbury and Oak Park Retirement with his wife Doris to be with his daughter.
Leder was a member of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
Kluttz was a resident of Rowan County who graduated from Cleveland High School. He served in the United States Army in the 737th Tank Battalion. He worked as a mason, was a member of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, the American Legion, VFW and Andrew Jackson Masonic Lodge No. 576.
After the war, Kluttz briefly tried railroad work before embarking on a career in masonry, telling Mark Wineka in 2015 that he was “killed about three times in three weeks.”
Along with Jim Deal, who was a member of the same battalion, Kluttz was a Grand Marshal of the 2015 Faith Fourth of July Parade. They were both drafted as teenagers. Kluttz was a gunner in Company A. Deal was in Company C.
Leer and Kluttz are part of the greatest generation because of the years in which they were born, 1926 and 1924 respectively. The group of people known as the largest generation was born between 1901-1927, just after the lost generation and before the silent generation.
They also fought for the freedoms we enjoy today in America during World War II.
Even if the nation has been busy in the longest period of conflict throughout its history in the Middle East, we may have lost sight of what it took to secure and preserve our freedoms—something Leather and Kluttz knew all too well. A 2011 Pew Research Study found that a smaller proportion of Americans served in the United States Armed Forces than at any time in the country’s history.
That meant the wider civilian population distanced itself more from connections with military personnel, the study said. It also marked gaps in public understanding about the military’s problems and patriotism, respondents told surveyors.
To understand the sacrifices made in pursuing America’s foundation vision, we owe it to ourselves to learn the stories of local veterans before they grow too far and the Post, as the first draft of the history of the community, owes it to the public for doubling down on our efforts to write down the stories of those who have served for future generations to read. Working on the latter, The Post plans to launch a series of articles about Salisbury and Rowan County residents who have served in the military.
Josh Bergeron is editor of the Salisbury Post.