Chester 'Chet' Slade
Chester “Chet” Slade, retired military veteran, died peacefully at Hospice House of Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, Oct. 31,2013, following complications arising from an accidental fall in June.
Chester Eugene Slade was born February 18, 1933, at Butler, Oklahoma to Emil and Mabel (Byfield) Slade.
As a young boy, Chester liked to help his dad at Slade’s Garage, at his Uncle Dick McKenna’s farm riding horses, hunting rabbits with his Uncle Harold Neff, being at Grandad Clarence Byfield’s swinging across the Washita River on a rope and an old tire or teasing his cousins, all girls.
Chester enjoyed Boy Scouts. It was the talk of the town, (Butler, population 411) when at around age 12 years, his troop was asked to clean up old papers in the Butler Bank that had closed.
When sorting through various papers in the vault, Chester and a buddy came across $1,300.
After turning the money in to the scoutmaster, the widow of the banker gave the troop a small monetary reward. Chester received several badges and awards in Scouting.
At 14 years of age and becoming disenchanted with school, Chet left home.
He joined a traveling carnival. It was there that a woman who had befriended him was planning to sign as his sister for Chet to enlist in the Army.
When his parents located him, his father told him to come home and that he would sign the enlistment papers.
The recruiter told Chester that he knew he was not 17, but if the Army was what he wanted, they would surely make a man of him.
And in 1971, nearly 23 years later, Chet retired from the armed services and later retired with Civil Service from McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento, Calif., as a jet aircraft mechanic/electrician.
Chester served first, with the Army (1947-1952), the Marine Corps. (1954-1971), and closed out his career with the Navy in 1971.
“Old Enough To Die...Too Young To Be Afraid” was the title of a Veterans’ Day feature story written about Chester Slade in the Coeur d’ Alene Press, on November 10,1966.
In March of 1948, Chester shipped out for Tokyo, Japan. He spent one week at Camp Zama before he was assigned to the 7th Infantry Division of the 31st Regiment in Korea.
In the following months he was responsible for protecting supply-train cars. With six months left before his tour ended, Slade enlisted for another year as his ticket out of Korea.
He said, “Anybody that had a year or more left had the chance to serve it out in Japan. I hated Korea so much that I signed up for another year so I could get out of there.”
Chester was 15 when he returned to Japan in 1949. There he met and married 19-year-old Miwako Nakasawa in a Shinto ceremony after a courtship using English/Japanese dictionaries.
Ms. Nakasawa worked in a local bank. Chet and Miwako (Jeanie, as he called her) had three children, Rita Jean, Linda and Steve.
At times when Chester was reassigned to different bases (mainland and abroad) and the family was not permitted to go they spent the time at Butler where the kids attended Butler Public School.
One time while in South Korea, at mail call, he received photographs from Butler Royalty as his daughters and son were elected class queens and king, respectively, for the Butler school carnival.
Before Chester’s second tour ended, the Korean War started and he was required to serve another tour of duty.
Slade was 17 when his regiment landed in Inchon, Korea, in September, 1950.
His division spent the next three months fighting its way to the Manchurian border.
Chester said of all the skirmishes, all the battles, he would never forget Halloween 1950 - the night that all hell broke loose.
As a squad leader Slade was taking his company up a strategic hill.
Outnumbered, with enemy fire coming from all sides, were grenades (potato mashers).
When the battle was over, there were more than 1,000 dead North Koreans with the U.S. suffering only minor casualties.
Chet’s division reached the Manchurian border on Thanksgiving Day — the only American regiment to do so in the Korean War.
In Korea on May 18,1951 Chester was awarded the Purple Heart for the injury from the Russian grenade.
In the Coeur a’ Alene news article Chet said that during the Wanson invasion in North Korea, his regiment was the only one to reach the Yalu River.
Looking back at the basic training and the Korean War — the events that marked his teen-age years — Slade said, he could see little difference between himself and those “of age” that served alongside him.
“A vet is a vet,” and I peed in the Yalu River like everyone else.
In retirement Chet attended the 17th Infantry Regiment reunions as well as the “Chosin Few” reunions held over the country.
Getting together, these select “few” veterans recalled the battle at the Chosin Reservoir where the North Koreans and the Chinese entrapped them, their platoon casualties running high and finally their rescue by the U.S. Navy.
In 1956 when Chester was stationed about 20 miles from the base at Tokyo, Japan, he was a frequent visitor in the home of former Butlerites, Billy Ray and Elaine (Payne) Bailey.
Elaine wrote back that you could tell “Chet sure missed that Okie cooking; chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy.”
On one of his visits there, Chet and Billy Ray were joined by Robert Stults and Dewey McDonald Jr. who were assigned to another nearby base.
That coincidence was news worthy. The Clinton Daily News published the photo and details of the meeting with headlines that read: “Four Butler Boys Reunite in Tokyo, Japan.”
After his military career, Chester and Jeanie moved back to Oklahoma to help with the care of his ailing mother.
For a short time he operated a gas station on South Fourth Street (U.S. Highway 183) in Clinton.
After his mother’s death, they moved back to California.
Chet was active in Jeep Clubs and operated a gun business (B and S Guns) with his partner, John Blackwell in Citrus Heights.
After 30 years of marriage, Chester and Jeanie divorced in 1980.
Later he met Shirley Burkey at a square dancing group, and they were married in Citrus Heights, Calif. in 1990.
Before his retirement, the Slades traveled many miles in search of the ideal place to call home.
They chose St. Maries, Idaho where Shirley continued to work as a pharmacist in St. Maries and nearby Plummer.
They were active in bowling clubs. Chet spent his time enjoying 4-wheeling, hunting, fishing, gunsmithing, gun shows, flea markets and his coffee buddies at Bud’s Restaurant.
The Slades were avid travelers, throughout the United States, China, South Korea, Australia (twice) and New Zealand.
Chet was a life-long blood donor. He was a member of St. Mary Immaculate Catholic Church, Fleet Reserve Association, 17th Infantry Association (The Buffaloes), Veterans of Underage Military Service, Military Order of the Purple Heart, The Chosin Few (men who fought at the Chosin Reservoir), Korean War Veterans Assn. (The Graybeards), Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and National Rifle Association.
Preceding Chester in death were his parents, Emil and Mabel Slade; and his first wife, Miwako Slade.
He is survived by his wife, Shirley, of the home; daughters, Rita Powell and Linda Moore, Florida; a son, Steve Slade and Rosemary, Brisbane, Calif.; grandchildren, Prudence and Erick Powell, Marc, Sara and Andrew Moore, Eric and Yetta Slade-Eklos; a sister Nellrita (Slade) Barrick and her husband, Steward, Clinton; a nephew Ross Barrick and his wife, Lou, Kingfisher; a niece Paula Barrick-Glancy, Clinton; an aunt, Leona Urshell, Oklahoma City; and several cousins in western Oklahoma.
A memorial mass was celebrated on Nov. 13, 2013, at St. Mary Immaculate Church in St. Maries.
At his request inturnment will be in Butler, Okla. near his parents’ graves.