Alfred (Al) Wesley Milch
Another member of “The Greatest Generation” and veteran of World War II passed away on Wednesday 3, 2010 at 1:10pm at home with his family by his side.Alfred (Al) Wesley Milch was born November 30, 1919 in Norfolk, Virginia to John Julius Milch and Elizabeth Grace Hudson Milch where he lived until eight years of age. Al lost both of his parents at a young age and was raised by his maternal Aunt, Esther Rebecca Hudson Morris and husband Frank (Pancho) Colwell Morris. The family moved from Norfolk, Virginia to San Angelo, Texas where Al attended school and played high school football for the San Angelo Bobcats. He graduated from San Angelo High School in 1937.
Al began his football career at Schreiner Institute in Kerrville, Texas on a scholarship, playing the 1938-39 and 1939-40 seasons. He enrolled at Hardin-Simmons in the spring of 1941 and lettered in football in 1941, 42, and 46. A noted two-way player, Al played both offensive and defensive guard on the Cowboy line. He was named to the All Border Conference Team in 1942 and 1946, both on offense and defense. He was also named to the Associated Press Little All-America Team in 1946. On January 4, 1947 Al and his Hardin-Simmons Cowboys played in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas where HSU beat Denver University 20-0 under the revered coach Warren Woodson. He has the distinction of playing on both of Hardin-Simmons undefeated and untied teams. Many of the men who played on that team in that game remained residents of the Big Country. They include but not limited to; Morris Southall, Howard Chesney, Bulldog Turner, C.F. Bailey, Moe Hedrick, Joe England and Doc Mobley.
Milch’s career at HSU was split due to World War II. He enlisted in the Navy V-12 program and was sent to Quantico, Virginia, famous home of the Marine Corps Schools and FBI Academy. After completing officers’ school he was commissioned a second lieutenant and was assigned to TQM (Logistics) at San Diego and San Francisco, California. He served aboard the USS Eastland for three years as a Liaison Officer for the Army, Navy, United States Marine Corp on the Flatilla Staff. He made many landings at several places including Guam, Solomons Island, Alaska, Taclobian and Manial in the Phillipines Islands, Okinawa, Hokkaido, Japan, Vladivostok, Russia and Peiping, China. On August 6, 1645 the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Milch was in Pusan, South Korea, preparing to sail toward Tientsen, China. Three days later, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. The USS Eastland and its men were credited with shooting down 3½ Japanese aircraft during the war. He earned the rank of Captain before discharge in March 1946.
He also served in the Texas National Guard as instructor of artillery for five years as rank of Captain. It was his good fortune to attend many schools in the field of supervision and administrative positions while on active duty. He continued his training in the reserve program with the Texas Nation Guard attending a workshop at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland in 1972. A news clipping from war correspondent Ernie Pyle has through the years been one of Milch’s most treasured mementos. Pyle paused at a cemetery and stopped at a row of white crosses. He wrote “There is nothing we can do for the ones under the wooden crosses here except perhaps to pause and murmur ‘thanks pal’.” Throughout his life Al referred to many of his friends as “pal”.
In the fall of 1946, after returning from WWII to HSU, Al met Marigene Sellers, also a student at HSU. Al and Marigene married December 15, 1946. He earned a Bachelors of Science degree from HSU in 1947 and a Masters of Science Degree in 1948. Marigene is also a former faculty staff member of HSU. Ironically, Marigene’s brother, Parramore Sellers, was a college roommate of Al’s in the athletic dorm in 1941 and 1942. Unfortunately, he did not return from WWII as his plane was shot down by enemy fire.
Always involved with HSU, Milch returned as freshman coach in 1948 and replaced Murray Evans as the varsity line coach in 1950, before moving to Arlington State where he served as athletic director in 1951. Al was inducted into the Hardin-Simmons University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1989. Al also was Athletic Director and Head Football Coach at Sul Ross University in Alpine, Texas. He recruited “Texas” football players for The University of Colorado, New Mexico State & Rice University in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. He coached high school football in Roscoe, replacing Gordon Wood who then went on to coach the Stamford Bulldogs and in January 1957 took over the Head Coach position in Big Spring, Texas.
In the early 1960’s, Al bought a ranch in the Texas Hill Country between London and Junction. He named it “Llano River Ranch” and raised Angus cattle, horses and Angora goats for many years. He was a lifetime member of the American Angus Association. Al and Marigene spent many years enjoying friend and family gatherings at the ranch.
Al was also a Land Developer and Home Builder in Big Spring until 1968. In 1961 a group of West Texas ranchers, oil men, farmers, doctors, bankers and related business men formed a land development corporation called “Kentwood Development Inc.”. They bought a section of land from a rancher and developed a subdivision of approximately 700 houses. These business men elected Al as President and Executive officer of this corporation. Al and his family lived on Rebecca Street in Kentwood from 1964 to 1968.
In August of 1968, Al, Marigene, and Merrily moved to Brownwood where Al accepted the position of Asst. principal of Brownwood High School. In the 1970’s he became the Principal of the newly constructed Brownwood Jr. High School. He retired as Assistant Superintendent of Brownwood Schools in 1985. After 40+ years he not only had the trust and respect of his peers but also the hundreds of young men and women he knew over the years.
Al served on the Board of Directors for the Brown County Appraisal District from 1985-1988. He also served on the Review Board of the Brown County Appraisal District for two terms from 1987- 92 and 1995-98and Chairman of the Review Board from 1991-92 and 1997-98.
After retiring from the school business, Al and Marigene traveled the U.S. extensively with family and friends visiting most all 50 states and Canada in a 10 year period. Al and Marigene always took their children, grandchildren and 2 great grandsons on terrific family vacations for years. Some of his favorite places to travel include, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, The Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Alaska. He loved yearly trips to the beach and deep sea fishing; especially with his son, nephew and friends. Bird hunting with dear friends from Big Spring, San Angelo, Garden City and Brownwood annually was also dear to his heart.
Time and time again when asked who the persons were that had the greatest influence on his life, without hesitation he would always give the same answer: his wife Marigene, his Aunt Esther, and mother-in-law Bess.
Al was preceded in death by his parents, his Aunt Esther and Uncle Frank, sister Dolly, and son Larry Al Milch.
He is survived by his wife of 64 years Marigene Sellers Milch, and two daughters; Suzanne Milch of Brownwood and Merrily Milch Belisle of Brownwood, and daughter-in-law Kathryn Crenshaw Milch of Ft. Davis. He also leaves behind four granddaughters; Tiffany Milch Roman of Ft. Davis, Roni Osborne Pena of San Antonio and husband Mark, Jennifer Belisle Hamilton of Abilene and husband Wes, and Rebecca Belisle Wimpee of Rockwall and husband Jake, and a grandson Todd Baker of Brownwood. He is also survived by five great grandsons; Dylan, Michael, Luke, Rylee, and Cole and five great granddaughters; Katelynn, Haylee, Sydney, Avery, and Reagan. He has a cousin, Bill Sellers and wife Sheila of Copperas Cove, nephew Parry Lee and wife Selma of Abilene and niece Cindy Lee of Wichita Falls.
The family would like to thank Dr. Bruce Leipzig and his entire staff, Dr. Steven Oines, and Dr. Bon Young for the great care and respect over these many years. They would like to thank Paige Grimes, Lighthouse Hospice, and the nurses of 2 east & 5 east at BRMC for their devotion and incredible care of Al this past year. The family would also like to share their appreciation with their neighbors Gary and Vicki George and Betty Martin for their love, help and support these past few months.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials to Hardin-Simmons University and The Boys and Girls Club of Brown County.
Arrangements by Heartland Funeral Home in Early, Texas. A Celebration of Life service will be held at the Heartland Funeral Home Chapel at 1:30pm on Saturday, November 13th. His family will receive friends from 6 to 7 pm Friday, November 12th at the funeral home.
Friends are invited to sign the guestbook at www.heartlandfuneralhome.net.
Heartland Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.