Melvin Eggersgluss was serious when he told people that serving as a Marine in the Korean War was the best time of his life. Even though he was shot in the chest by a sniper and blown up by a grenade.
He received two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart. The first was awarded after a Marine in his platoon who radioed in airstrikes was killed and Eggersgluss took over his duties.
That’s when he was shot by a sniper and refused to leave the post in the freezing cold. He was then wounded by a grenade and strapped to a Jeep as his platoon retreated. He joked that the engine’s heat helped keep him warm.
Eggersgluss, who worked as an electrician and raised 15 children, died of natural causes March 20 at his home in Buffalo, Minn. He was 94.
He was born on the family farm in Howard Lake, Minn., and graduated from high school at 17, not long before joining the Marines. He was stationed in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, before being transferred to the Marine Corps Base at Quantico, Va., where he spent six months taking a small arms mechanics course.
Eggersgluss fought in the brutal Battle of Chosin Reservoir in Korea and became a staff sergeant during the war, said his son, Peter, of Longview, Wash. During the Bronze Star ceremony, officials said his coolness under fire, resolute determination and unselfish devotion to duty were a source of inspiration to all who were with him.
For a long time he was hesitant to discuss his war experience, until he and several other veterans were asked to talk to high school students about it.
“He was the only one with combat duty, so he became the one asked to come back every year,” said Peter Eggersgluss. “He would receive letters of thanks from the students, and they usually asked him about having 15 children.”
Eggersgluss married Marilyn Moore in 1952, and they started a family. While pregnant in the early 1970s, Marilyn was diagnosed with cancer, and doctors told them her only chance to live was if they terminated the pregnancy. But they had the baby, a girl, and the cancer disappeared, Peter said. Marilyn died in 2016.
The family lived in Buffalo, where Eggersgluss ran an electrical business and eventually became a general contractor. He often did free work for neighbors and farmers on weekends, for which he might be paid with a couple of bottles of pickles or a bushel of corn.
After retiring as an electrician, Eggersgluss became a parts runner for auto stores. He once told Peter that he couldn’t believe he got paid $6 an hour for a job he would have done for free.
Eggersgluss was active at St. Francis Xavier Church in Buffalo, served as commander at the local American Legion post and ran for the school board. He was a voracious reader, especially history, and enjoyed jigsaw puzzles and going to the casino. He delivered Meals on Wheels to residents who often were younger than he was.
Peter Eggersgluss said the family will miss his dry sense of humor, the twinkle in his eye and “those boisterous political discussions.”
Besides son Peter, Eggersgluss is survived by daughters Mary Jahnke of Buffalo, Joanne Ahearn of San Jose, Calif., Christine Buckvold and Janie Matthys, both of Bloomington, Kathleen Gerlach of New York City, Julie Moseley of Vancouver, Wash., Annie of Crystal and Lynn Vashro of Minneapolis; sons David and Marty, both of Maple Lake, Daniel of Monticello, Tom and Bob, both of Buffalo, and Joe of Bloomington; and 23 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren. Services have been held.
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