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WWII veteran called the ‘kindest man’ dies at 96

Folded flag resting on a headstone. (MaxPixel/Released/TNS)

A World War II veteran, who served as grand marshal of Middletown’s Memorial Day Parade, has died.

Delbert Sharrett died Sunday at Hospice Care of Butler and Warren Counties. He was 96.

His body will be donated to Wright State University’s School of Medicine and will be buried next to his wife, Lille Mae. The Sharretts were married for 65 years until her death in 2010. They have have three children: two daughters, Jane and Phyllis and one son, Clyde, named in honor of Clyde Nichols, who introduced Sharrett to his future wife and who was buried at sea in a submarine during Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

As Sharrett prepared to serve as parade marshal he said he would be thinking about his shipmate.

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“He didn’t get the chance to come home,” Sharrett said softly over lunch at KJ’s Restaurant in Germantown. “It’s very, very sad. This will be my way to honor him.”

The two were shipmates in California until Nichols asked to be assigned to a submarine because of the added pay.

In 1941, Sharrett, then a junior at Washington Court House High School, enlisted in the U.S. Navy so he wouldn’t have to finish school. He served a few weeks in Michigan, patrolling a lake shore with a rifle and no ammunition.

Sharrett was shipped to Pearl Harbor on Dec. 2, 1941, five days before the attack.

On that day, Sharrett was aboard the USS Sea Gull about 80 miles from Pearl Harbor. They were practicing what Sharrett called “war games,” meaning they shot blank torpedoes at targets, retrieved them, and scored their accuracy.

Sharrett remembered a radio announcement urging the sailors to “take cover because Pearl Harbor was bombed.” The world changed forever when more than 2,400 Americans were killed.

After the war, Sharrett returned to Washington Court House and finished his senior year. He then planned to enroll in Ohio State’s veterinarian program, but his wife got pregnant with their first child. So the family moved to Middletown, Sharrett applied at Armco Steel and started working later that afternoon. He retired from there in 1978, 30 years and 20 days later.

Sharrett was active in several local organizations and some of his military items are on display at the Veterans Museum in Germantown. When he was unable to drive, Ronzo and Brenda Evans drove him to dances every Friday and Saturday and to lunches every Thursday at KJ’s Restaurant.

“He was the kindest man,” Brenda Evans said.

Thomas Hall, 24, of Madison Twp., said Delbert and Lillie Mae babysat him and his sister, Halie, growing up just like they did their mother, Teresa. Hall said he called Delbert and Lillie Mae “papaw” and “mamaw.”

Hall visited Sharrett Sunday morning and a few hours later, he was told Sharrett had died.

“That hurts,” Hall said through tears. “I’m grateful that I was able to spend the time with him I did. But nothing prepares you for this.”

Hall said every call or visit with Sharrett ended the same way: “Over and out,” Sharrett would say.

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© 2019 the Journal-News