George Benton Pace Sr. never talked about his time in World War II. Much like most veterans of that time, it was likely too painful.
“We are sure he faced many tragedies that no one should endure,” said his son, Jr. Pace.
George Pace passed away on March 14, at the age of 94. His family says he died peacefully at his home with his children and grandchildren surrounding him.
His life, though, wasn’t always peaceful. He was drafted into the Army on Aug. 1, 1943 and joined the 261st Infantry Anti-Tank Division in Italy a year later. On Oct. 7, 1944, his wife, Lucille, received a Western Union letter informing her that he was a prisoner of war of the German government.
“The only thing that family knows of his time in the German prison camp is that he did say that was the coldest he had ever been and the hungriest he had ever been in his life,” said Jr. “Many nights he would wake from nightmares saying, ‘get up, get dressed, they’re moving us again.’”
In 1922 George came into the world, the eldest child of Calvin and Lula (McClure) Pace. He had a brother, Lonnie, and a sister, Ruby.
He was raised a farm boy, in the Larkinsville community, at the foot of Skyline Mountain. In 1943, at the age of 20, he married Lucille Bellomy, who herself was raised a farmer’s daughter in the Pikeville community. They met while attending Letcher Church of God.
Uncle Sam called him away three months in to the marriage. After he was reported a prisoner of war, Lucille didn’t hear any word about her husband for several months, until Feb. 9, 1945, when the family received a card and letter stating that George was in the prison camp and well.
Over four months later, Lucille finally received news that George was coming home soon. He received an Honorable Discharge on Nov. 28, 1945.
George got home, and he and Lucille lived in the home she bought from the money he sent home while in the service. Soon after, the children began coming. George B. Pace Jr. was born on May 23, 1946. Glenda Faye was next followed by Ruth Helen, Eddie Leon and then baby, Carol Jean.
They lived in Skyline, raising babies and farming. In the years to come, the family grew more with 12 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.
Work never bothered the World War II veteran, his family said. Jr. and Eddie worked in the fields along with their father, while the girls learned from their mother.
Eventually, George and Lucille build and operated a potato shed where they gave many youngsters summer jobs. Their potatoes went everywhere as semi trucks came and went all week.
In May 2005, Lucille passed away. With the love of his life gone, his family said George never went a day without speaking of his love for her and how he looked forward to the ay that they would be together again forever.
That day came on March 14 as his family said their ‘goodbyes.’ His family remembers George Pace as a true hero, a legend and, most important, a simple, honest man.
His passing left his country with one less true American hero, a World War II veteran and prison of war.
David Brewer contributed to this story.