SALINA — Leslie Marion Ollenberger, 93, of Salina, completed his journey on Earth March 17, 2013.
Les was preceded in death by his sister, Eldena Dunn, and three brothers, Albert, Ron and Billy Ollenberger.
His survivors include daughter Rosemary Hawver of Charlotte, N.C.; daughter Sydney Teeter of San Diego, Calif.; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
A celebration of life service was held for Les on Sunday, March 17.
Memorial contributions can be made to Salina First Baptist Church, 843 Lewis Ave., Salina, KS 67401, or to Presbyterian Manor, 2601 E. Crawford, Salina, KS 67401 and may be sent to or left in care of Ryan Mortuary, 137 N. Eighth St., Salina, KS 67401.
Les knew the meaning of “work.” As a youngster of five or six, he harvested sugar beets alongside his brothers and parents in the fields of Nebraska. At the age of 12, he left school to work in a creamery and help support his family. In later years, Les drove a rock quarry truck, owned an appliance store, refueled jet planes, worked maintenance at air force and army bases, and retired as a maintenance supervisor at Schilling Air Force Base Family Housing in Salina.
Les Ollenberger was a highly decorated veteran of World War II, awarded medals that included a Croix de Guerre with Bronze Star. As an infantryman with the Army’s Third Battalion, Les landed at Omaha Beach then plunged into D-Day battles, marching across France and Germany. Les was honored by French General Charles de Gaulle personally for his role in freeing France.
In one momentous battle, Les’s platoon was ambushed by German soldiers. Les led his men in an all-night machine-gun attack, wiping out the enemy by morning and earning an award for his heroism.
But later in life Les reflected on this event and said, sadly, that “the enemy turned out to be boys, just like us.” A memoir published about the Third Battalion says, “The story [of war] is locked in the hearts and minds of the men who fight — in what they thought, felt and did — in what it did to them.”
Les carried the trauma and heartbreak of war with him to the very end of his life. Now he is free from the pain and hurt that he tried to keep at bay for so many years.
In their later years Les and his wife, Evelyn, moved to Presbyterian Manor, where they made many friends and thoroughly enjoyed life in close quarters with each other. When Evelyn fell prey to Alzheimer’s disease, she moved to the healthcare unit. Les spent every day with her, listening to polka music, holding her hand and napping next to her on their reclining loveseat.
He said that his last goal in life was to live long enough to see Evelyn through to heaven. He accomplished that goal in November 2012. After 72 years of marriage on Earth, Les and Evelyn are together again in heaven.