William S. Palmer, 90, mill worker

William S. Palmer
William S. Palmer
Posted: May 28, 2013

William S. Palmer, 90, a former Frankford mill worker who saved several of his wounded foxhole buddies from a German onslaught during World War II, died of cancer Monday, May 13, at the Brigantine home of his daughter, Teri Ryan.

"He was in a hospice for the last three years, but he wanted to die in the house," his son-in-law Thomas Ryan said.

Born in Kensington, Mr. Palmer grew up in Juniata, and, as a teenager, worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps, helping to build roads in Arizona in the 1930s, Ryan said.

The CCC was a federal program that from 1933 to 1942 provided up to two years of work for unemployed, unmarried men whose families were hurting during the Depression.

After working for the CCC, Ryan said, Mr. Palmer "went right into the Army."

At a time and place in France lost to memory, Mr. Palmer "saved a few guys' lives," Ryan said.

Mr. Palmer "was in a foxhole, and the Germans were rushing them," Ryan said. "There were three wounded guys in there with him, and he kept the Germans pinned down" with a Browning automatic rifle.

"He wasn't wounded," Ryan said, and "held them off until reinforcements came."

Though some veterans are silent about their wartime experiences until late in life, Mr. Palmer "used to talk about it all the time."

The Bronze Star and the military papers documenting his deeds were lost in October, Ryan said, when Hurricane Sandy hit their house in Brigantine.

Though Mr. Palmer was not wounded in the foxhole attack, Ryan said, he later was wounded by a land mine severely enough that "he was in the hospital for 18 months while they put him back together."

When Mr. Palmer returned to Philadelphia, Ryan said, he worked for a carpet mill near Frankford Avenue and Tulip Street, becoming a maintenance manager.

In retirement, he was a maintenance worker at Lighthouse Field, at Front Street and Erie Avenue.

"He chalked the lines" on the baseball field, cut the grass, "did all the maintenance," Ryan said.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Palmer is survived by three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. His wife, Elaine, and grandson David died in 2008.

A life celebration is set for 1 p.m. Saturday, June 8. Consult ryantom60@yahoo.com for details.


Contact Walter F. Naedele

at 610-313-8134, wnaedele@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @WNaedele.

 

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