Omer Ralph Lemire of Conway passed away Saturday, Aug. 22, 2009. He was born on March 30, 1915 in Sentinel Butte, N.D., on the edge of the North Dakota Badlands. He was the sixth of 12 children and was born in the family’s sod shack. Omer was a premature baby and immediately after his birth, he was placed in a size seven shoe box and then into a cast iron oven for warmth.
He was preceded in death by his parents, George B. Lemier and Viva Parent Lemier; first wife Orentha Jackie Lemire and a son Eugene Lemire.
He was a member of St. Josephs Catholic Church, Life Member of VFW Post No. 7163 and DAV No. 10.
He is survived by his wife, Freda Hensley Lee Lemire; son George I. Lemire of California; grandchildren, Julie Lemire, David Lemire, Daniel Lemire, Alona Whalen; seven great-grandchildren; step-sons, Dale Lee of Memphis, Tenn., Dennis Lee of California.
Mass of Christian Burial will be 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Joseph Catholic Church with the Rev. George Spangenberg, C.S. Sp. as celebrant. Burial will follow in Crestlawn Memorial Park.
A Wake will be 6 p.m. Tuesday with visitation to follow at Roller-McNutt Funeral Home, Conway.
Pallbearers will be Jimmy Bryant, Jack DuBose, Melvin Bailey, Joshua Leicht, Steve Hensley, Travis Hensley.
Honorary pallbearer will be Windell Hensley.
Omer served two separate stints in the U.S. Army, the first beginning in 1935 and ending with his discharge in 1938. His second period of service came during World War II. He was assigned to General George Patton’s Third Army and was a squad leader in Company B, 11th Combat Engineers. His outfit was responsible for building portable bridges over streams that exceeded 100 feet in width.
The last bridge that Omer and his unit built was across a river tributary about 10 miles southwest of Dachau Concentration Camp. After the camp, had been liberated by Allied troops, General Eisenhower and General Patton encouraged U.S. troops to visit the Dachau camp. Omer visited the camp and was overcome with grief and anger at what he saw. Omer stated, "Across a fence we could see piles of what looked like bodies in stacks, like cords of wood about 5 feet high and 15 feet long. I was frustrated that we hadn’t gotten there soon enough to save the victims of this atrocity. I felt guilty."
After the war in Europe had ended, Omer returned to the United States and was awestruck upon seeing the Statue of Liberty as he entered New York Harbor. After disembarkation he knelt down and kissed the ground and said a thankful prayer to God for bringing him back home.
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