January 21, 2019
We Remember Milton L. Staley
It was with much sadness that we learnt this morning of the passing of Milton L. Staley, aged 99. Not only was Milton the last known survivor from the sinking of the SS President Coolidge, he was just as importantly a D-Day hero, Purple Heart and Silver Star recipient, frequent Facebooker and a wonderful friend of the South Pacific World War II Museum project. But rather than have us tell you about his wonderful life, we thought we’d let his nephew Richard Staley do that, in this touching tribute he posted on our Facebook page.
Another of the Greatest Generation has joined the long green line of WWII veterans who now march slowly into the past Friday evening.
My uncle enjoyed the status of an international rock star — not the arrogant, self-indulgence of a musician, but the respect, sometimes adulation and love of scores of friends at home and in places as widely separated as the Southwest Pacific, Belgium and France. He was a hero — Silver Star and two purple hearts — but he was quiet and always unassuming. He loved his country, his beloved wife (his childhood sweetheart whose passing he mourned until his last moments on earth), his family and friends. And even younger vets he met in the coffeeshop and adopted as family.
Tough times make tough people. Milt and my father and uncle Ed lost their mother at an early age. They grew up in hardscrabble northern Minnesota during the Great Depression. Their graduation ceremony to adulthood was induction into the US military for service in the greatest war in history.
Milt was a gentle man. But he was always a warrior. The Redding Police chaplain who prayed with us for Milt’s departed soul was a Lakota Sioux. The battlecry of Sioux warriors, he said, was also an affirmation of life — live each day as if it was your last:
“Hoka Hay!” (Today is a good day to die.)
It is seldom a good day for those left behind, but for Milton Leroy Staley it was a release from pain. He wanted to celebrate his 100th birthday in May, but Friday he decided that it was time to rejoin Aunt Dorie and his mother and father and brothers and son in a better place.