ONCE in a while someone crosses your path and makes a lasting impression, whether by an act of kindness, deed or simply by owning a winning personality. This person exceeds in all areas and it is his memory at the age of 99 that will strike you as quite unusual.
He was born in the Danville community on November 20, 2019 and his parents were Star and Ria Dickson. For long-time Kilgoreites, you now know I am talking about Mr. Wilson Dickson who took it upon himself to deliver a specific newspaper column to a resident of Arbor Grace Nursing facility, Dorothy Huberman.
“When you are as old as I am everything reminds you of something else,” laughed Wilson. “I found it quite a coincidence that she was a welder on the same ship that I served on. And here we both are living in the same town.”
That ship was the USS LSM 5 built by Brown Shipbuilding Company and was launched on July 24, 1944.
“I was on that ship the day it launched and I was on it when it went out of commission,” Wilson said.
He was working for East Texas Auto Supply when he graduated from high school. He worked six days a week for the company and the owner saw to it college was added into his schedule. It was during junior college he received a notice to the Army. A friend, Clay Kennedy, told him he could join the Navy as long as he had two years of college and so he did. Wilson was sent to Columbia University in New York, a diesel engineering school at Cornell University and from there to Little Creek where he picked up the crew that joined him aboard the USS LSM 51. He was the Engineer Officer of the ship.
Photos capture Wilson standing in front of a 12-foot-thick concrete structure at Lemery in the Philippines. It had 12-inch guns on top, and the Japanese military was keeping up with ships coming and going in out of the harbor. The amphibious crew of the USS LSM 51 managed to get grenades inside of it hitting diesel and oil and causing the structure to be blown apart. It was later learned 65 Japanese soldiers had been manning the installation.
Wilson has other very interesting stories to tell that he knows in full detail, one of which is being locked down at Brunei Bay, Borneo.
“We couldn’t get off the beach,” said Wilson. “I took a gas mask and air hose and devised an air helmet to dive under to see what had caused the problem. I found a cable wrapped around the propeller. I and one other guy went back down to cut the cable and free the ship.”
The ship was decommissioned on May 8, 1946 at Terminal Island, San Pedro, California. Wilson likes to tell he was decommissioned at the same time after receiving honorable discharge and several awards for outstanding duty.
Evidently, Wilson could not get away from the water as upon return to Texas he went to work digging out creeks, making them bigger for better drainage as part of the Soil Conservation Service. In 1948, the Griffin & Dickson Company was formed and it was this crew that dug out the barge canal to Shreveport making it five miles closer inland and easier access to ships along the Red River.
They did the same to the Arkansas River in Tulsa, Oklahoma and along many of the ship areas in the south.
It was also in 1948 that he met and married Barbara Jo Damuth.
“We don’t fuss much,” he said. “I just do what she tells me and we get along just fine.”
Together the couple has four chidlren, 14 grand- and great grandkids.
He doesn’t forget details even if it is about you. Just give him a moment and he will come up with the right answer.
“I can remember things I am trying to forget,” he laughed. And he is one man you don’t want to forget.
SPRING FORWARD this weekend. Turn your clocks ahead one hour when you go to be Saturday evening. Time changes actually on the first day of Spring.
May His Love and Laughter Fill Your Hearts and Your Homes Throughout the Week. We may be reached at 9i03-984-25923 or firstname.lastname@example.org.