John G. Beechler
Another of our war heroes went to join his comrades on March 8, 2014.
John "Jack" Beechler passed peacefully in his sleep at the Quincy Veteran's Home, where he resided for the past year. John was born on Dec. 14, 1929, in Springfield, Ill., to Edna Mae Denniss. He grew up a proud Northender and graduated from Lanphier High School in 1949.
Upon learning of the Korean invasion, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He attended Basic Training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo., and because of high test scores and proven ability, he was accepted into the Field Artillery Officer Candidate School at Ft. Sill, Okla. He earned his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in February of 1952, attended the U.S. Army Jump School, and then was posted to the 11th Airborne Division stationed at Ft. Campbell, Ky. After six months, he volunteered for duty in Korea.
He arrived in Korea in January of 1953. John served as a forward artillery observer, a particularly hazardous position, initially for a Greek infantry battalion attached to the 3rd Infantry Division, a unit manning the center of the UN line near the Iron Triangle. When the forward observer assigned to the infantry company defending Outpost Harry was killed in early April, he immediately transferred to that unit, and occupied the observation post some four hundred yards in front of the Main Line of Defense. For the next several evenings, his position on Outpost Harry was shelled by the enemy. On the night of April 24th, the Chinese attacked. Despite a vigorous defense, with John calling in devastating fire on the enemy, the Chinese eventually overran the position, and made it into the trench line. His army commendation reads that "fully aware of the danger involved and without regard to his personal safety, he engaged in hand to hand combat with the enemy, mortally wounding all of them that reached his bunker. Despite wounds sustained while saving a fellow soldier's life, he remained in his position, fighting until the enemy was finally driven off the hill…." He was seriously injured, and would have died but for a bullet proof vest and the work of a MASH unit. John spent more than a year in hospitals recovering. He was awarded the Purple Heart and a Silver Star for his gallantry at Outpost Harry. John's story is preserved at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Oral History Collection, "Veterans Remember."
John's long life after the war was perhaps less dramatic, but only slightly so. He returned to live in Springfield, and later Petersburg, a town he came to love deeply. John had various occupations and business ventures over the decades, and had many successes in the metals business and the stock market.
However, John would tell all who would listen that his greatest achievements were his daughter, Leslie, of whom he was fiercely proud, and his 25 year relationship with his sweetheart, Judith Kerst.
John is also survived by his grandsons, David, Nathan and Adam, and his great-grandson, Christian. Though not related by blood, John always regarded his son-in-law, Chad Schexnayder, and Judy's children, Katie, Betsy, David and Louisa, grandson, Lazlo, and granddaughter, Sienna, as his own.
John began life disadvantaged and had to scrape and work for all that he achieved. He was nonetheless generous to a fault and loved to give gifts and host lavish restaurant dinners wherever he might be found. He was an avid reader, a dreamer, and possessing of an indefatigable optimism and self-confidence.
No one ever described John as commonplace or ordinary. He was often larger than life, truly unique, and will be terribly missed.
Memorial services, with military honors, will be held at Camp Butler National Cemetery on Monday, March 31, 2014, at high noon.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be sent to: Lincoln Memorial Gardens, www.lincolnmemorialgarden.org, or 2301 E. Lake Dr., Springfield, IL 62712.