SALISBURY — One of the men who gathered this weekend in Salisbury for the 66th reunion of the 737th Tank Battalion, which served under Gen. George S. Patton, has died.
Leo Showfety, 90, died in his sleep at the Hampton Inn in Salisbury sometime late Saturday night or early Sunday morning.
Showfety was among the seven men from the World War II battalion featured in a Sunday story in the Salisbury Post.
“It’s almost like we’ve had a wake here at the Hampton Inn,” said Melissa Waller, whose father, James Deal of Faith, was a tank gunner in the battalion.
There were a lot of tears shed, but also many fond remembrances of Showfety among the six other men and the family members who came with them.
Showfety drove a light Stewart tank in the European theater during the war. The 737th Tank Battalion, of which he was a part, was highly decorated and known as “Patton’s Spearheaders.”
In Greensboro after the war, Showfety worked primarily for Southern Bell and Sears.
Waller said Showfety’s daughter, Brenda Harrison, found some consolation in knowing her father spent his last days among family and friends, and also had some of his battalion’s story told in the newspaper on the day he died.
Showfety often was credited with keeping the annual reunions alive and served the group as its secretary-treasurer.
“This thing never would have kept on without him,” Waller said.
Showfety was the uncle of Salisbury orthodontist Kevin Showfety.
Much of the reunion planning in recent years had fallen to children and grandchildren, and Showfety uncharacteristically had turned over documents, memorabilia and some of the group’s working cash to Waller.
While in Salisbury, Showfety visited his brother’s grave at the National Cemetery off Railroad Street. He also had participated in all of the group’s outings, including tours of the N.C. Transportation and Price of Freedom museums.
Saturday night the group ate dinner at Blue Bay before returning to a Hampton Inn social room where they talked and handed out door prizes until about 11 p.m.
Other men of the World War II battalion and their family members were gathered for Sunday breakfast at the Hampton Inn when they began asking each other where Showfety could be.
“We’ve all cried,” Waller said.
Battalion member Jack Pritchett and his family, who live in Alabama, had left the hotel Sunday morning before hearing of Showfety’s death. When they received a call on the road, they turned around and returned to Salisbury.
Waller said Hampton Inn personnel “were unbelievably kind” in helping the group.
Those who participated in the reunion lined the first-floor hallway and into the lobby as a Greensboro funeral home rolled Showfety’s body out of the hotel.
It was done under American flags and salutes.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.