Lewis A. Getchell, age 97, of Joplin, Mo., was called home by his Lord and Savior at 8:05 a.m. Thursday, December 7, 2017, at National Healthcare in Joplin after a one year battle with cancer.
Lewis was born October 8, 1920, to Leonard and Zora Getchell on a farm near Yuma, Colo.
Lewis lived in several southeastern Colorado communities including Holly and Towner, growing up during the depression and dust bowl. In 1938, he moved to Holyoke, Colo., where he graduated from Phillips County High School in 1939.
On July 25, 1941, he was united in marriage to Dorene Holtzman, in St. Francis, Kan. They lived in Holyoke until Lewis was inducted into the Army Air Corps on October 8, 1942.
He was trained as a waist gunner on a B-24 at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, Colo. On October 18th, 1943, the 705th Squadron of the 446th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force departed for England where they were based at Bungay. Lewis, who was promoted to Staff Sergeant while in England, flew 30 missions over Germany from December, 1943, until May, 1944. One of those missions was the first daylight bombing of Berlin on March 6, 1944. On this mission, due to the number one engine being on fire as a result of flack over Berlin, the plane crippled back to England after the fire was extinguished while diving/falling over 15,000 feet. Among the citations Lewis was awarded included the Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters. In May, 1944, while he was stationed in England, his son, Leroy, was born. He returned from England in September, 1944, and was again stationed at Lowry in Denver where his daughter, Patricia, was born in June, 1945. Lewis trained on a B-29 and was preparing for duty in the Asian-Pacific theatre when the war ended.
After the war, Lewis returned to Holyoke with his family where he started a gravel hauling and excavation business that he operated until April, 1960, when he sold the business. After a short stay in southern California, Lewis and family moved to Fallon, Nev., in the spring of 1962 where he worked for Kennametal Inc., a tungsten carbide processing company. Lewis started as an hourly employee, worked his way up, finally becoming the general plant foreman over production and maintenance over two plants. During the time in Fallon, he and his son started a Polled Hereford farm which they operated until Lewis retired in 1980 and moved the cattle to Wentworth, Mo. Lewis Getchell and Son Polled Herefords were noted for quality seed stock. In addition to private sales of cattle, they sold bulls at several tested bull sales including Mt. Vernon and Columbia, Mo. In 1992, Lewis dispersed the cattle herd and sold the farm and ultimately moved to Joplin. After an illness, Dorene passed away in Joplin on March 19, 2000 after nearly 59 years of marriage.
On February 14, 2003, Lewis and Oleta Whitehead were married in Joplin. They have continuously lived in Joplin since their marriage although their first home was destroyed in the 2011 Joplin tornado. Lewis was a member of Calvary Baptist Church, Joplin.
Preceding him in death were his parents, his wife, Dorene, and his sister Irene Miller, El Paso, Texas.
Lewis is survived by his wife, Oleta. Additional survivors include a son, Leroy Getchell and wife, Lyla, Joplin; a daughter, Patty Getchell, Atlanta, Ga.; three step children, Janice France and husband, Wayne, Ozark, Mo., Michael Whitehead and wife. Judy, Joplin, and Judith DuRall and husband, Randy, Joplin; two grandchildren, Dr. Roy Getchell and wife, Tracy, Avon, Colo., and John Getchell and wife, Michelle, Kaneohe, Hawaii (formerly Sarcoxie, Mo.); four great-grandchildren and a host of step grandchildren, step great-grandchildren, step great-great-grandchildren and step great-great-great-grandchildren; as well as nieces, nephews, cousins, and many friends.
Services are planned for Tuesday at 11 a.m. at Parker Mortuary Chapel with the Rev. Tom Goettel officiating. The family will receive friends Monday from 6 to 7 p.m. at the mortuary. Graveside services are planned for Thursday at 1 p.m. at Holyoke Cemetery, Holyoke, Colo., with Rev. Max Hines officiating.
Contributions may be made to the Baptist Children's Home, Mt. Vernon.
Published on December 10, 2017