Draper / Spore

Gerald Robert Draper

Late in the spring of 1924, a small, fair-haired, blue-eyed baby boy was born near Silvis, Ill. His proud parents, Owen and Mae (Hayward) Draper named him Gerald Robert Draper. Jerry, as his friends knew him, grew into a striking young man during the Great Depression. Jerry attended East Moline High School. While still a teenager, Jerry took a job in the Moline area in the early 1940s.

When World War II broke out, Jerry, like most young men, enlisted in the military to support and defend his country. Jerry was a member of the Army Air Corp. Jerry was inducted into military service in April of 1943. He received training at Barksdale Field in Louisiana with the 335th Bomber Group, AAFFGS Flm Fla Aerial Gunner 44 and ACTS Lowry Field Colorado Ap Armorer 43.

In November of 1944, Jerry wrote home, telling his parents about a recent rest furlough he had received and the sights he had seen on the Isle of Capri. He told them he had completed 35 missions and should be coming home on furlough soon. This was the last his parents heard until the first of March 1945 when they received a telegram stating that while on a mission to Kauerslautern, Germany, on Jan. 1, 1945, a B26 Marauder (known as the New York Central II), on which Tech. Sgt. Draper was the armorer gunner had been shot down. Oh, the fear his parents must have felt for their young son! Jerry was now either dead or a POW.

Jerry was a POW in Germany. Jerry was in three different POW camps during his stay in Germany, his last one near Nuremberg. Jerry, being a young GI, not liking the cold, the lack of food and suffering from injuries he had received when he bailed out of the plane, decided to escape. His first two attempts at escaping were not successful; his third was.

After his escape, Jerry "borrowed" a motorcycle and started for the American lines until the bike broke down. He then stayed in a farmer's haystack with a Russian family until the American forces arrived. Jerry finally made contact with American soldiers and was returned home.

From Jerry's personal papers, we know he participated in the following battles or campaigns while in the service: Rome Arno, Southern France, Ardennes, Rhineland and Air Combat Balkans.

We have also found in Jerry's personal effects the following decorations and citations: Purple Heart, Prisoner of War Medal Badge, European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with silver Battle Star, one Overseas Service Bar Air Medal with 8-Oak Leaf Clusters, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Sharpshooter Badge with Pistol Bar Air, Crew Member Badge and a Good Conduct Medal.

The bomber unit to which Jerry was attached in Italy received the Presidential Citation for outstanding performance in missions over Northern Italy and Germany. A longtime boyhood friend of Jerry's told us Jerry had flown more than 50 missions.

Jerry returned home when his enlistment was over. He studied and trained in the automotive field. This led him to auto racing. Jerry was a member of IMCA racing and the American Automobile Association. Jerry raced all over the Midwest and East Coast. His former pit-crew members say he was a "hell of a driver." They simply couldn't keep vehicles under him.

In the early 1980s, Jerry left Illinois and headed west to pursue another interest of his, prospecting and metal detecting. Jerry traveled all over Northern California, Nevada and Arizona. Kingman became his home base 15 years ago. Jerry was adopted by a local family and lived with them until death.

Jerry loved animals, reading and tinkering. He especially loved to "improve" his detectors. One winter while recovering from the flu, he spent half the season building a metal detector from top to bottom; he spent the second half "improving" it. That spring he took this detector out and hunted with it.

In 2001, Jerry was diagnosed with PTSD, something he had suffered with since the war. The year 2004 brought diagnoses of dementia and diabetes.

On Nov. 25, 2006, Jerry left this world to be with his parents and friends. Jerry's departure leaves a void in our lives and hearts which will never be completely healed.

Jerry, this tribute is our way of saying good-bye.

We love you and we will miss you until we meet again.

****

John David Spore

John David Spore passed away on Dec. 8, 2006. John was born in Marianna, Fla., on Aug. 8, 1943, to Emma Frances Shumaker and John Frederick Spore. He grew up in Rock Island, Ill., and served his country in the U.S. Army. He married Esther Samson on Aug. 22, 1981.

He is survived by his wife; two sons, David and James; and two daughters, Cheryl and Lori; six grandchildren, Aubrey, Trista, Kayla, Ashley, David and Joshua; two great-grandchildren, Keanne and Aidan; and his brothers, Thomas, William, Timothy and Frederick; and sisters, Barbara, Mary, Beatrice, Jacqueline and Patricia.

Services will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 12, at Sutton Memorial Funeral Home, 1701 Sycamore Ave.

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation on behalf of John David Spore to St. Jude's Children's Hospital, Tribute Account No. 17311188.

Mail donations to St. Jude's Children's Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105 or by phone (800) 873-6983.