Lt. Col. Charles Beverly Screws, (Ret.), age 98, born in Sipe Springs, TX peacefully passed away in the comfort of his home on May 3, 2020 with members of his loving family at his side holding his hands and his loyal dog Jaxon at the foot of his bed. Charles was preceded in death by the love of his life, Clara Marguerite Screws, parents Charlie and Vern Screws (Wyatt), and sisters June Roach and Mozelle Barron.
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Charles was born on December 7, 1921 in Sipe Springs TX. Shortly thereafter, he moved with his family to Little River/Academy, TX where he and graduated from Academy High School in 1941, at which time he enlisted in the Air Corps as a Private, then Flight Officer, graduating in 1943 as a Warrant Officer. He was a skilled fighter pilot trained extensively on P-47’s and was shipped overseas on the Queen Mary in November 1943 to support the allied front in World War 2 as bomber escort for the 8th Air Force, stationed in Bottisham, England. Having endured a handful of successful missions, Charles was shot down by enemy ground fire over Nazi occupied France on January 29, 1944. He miraculously and successfully evaded capture by Nazi soldiers with assistance from the French Underground Resistance for over 4 months as he made his way to Gibraltar, Spain, a 1,500+ mile trek which included hiking over the Pyrenees mountains. Once reaching Gibraltar he was returned to his group in England in May 1944 where he was promptly awarded the Air Medal and Purple Heart, amongst many other accolades and was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant. As much as Charles wanted to stay and continue the fight, military regulations prevented him from doing so and he was forced to return home to the United States in June 1944 where he immediately married his sweet heart, Marguerite, which was the highest honor and achievement of his life.
After the war, Charles was assigned to training command as a flight instructor at Craig Field, AL, Stewart Field, NY and Williams Field, AZ where he trained pilots. While at Stewart Field he instructed cadets in escape and evasion classes at West Point, using his experience and knowledge to likely save countless American soldiers’ lives in combat. After completing Officer’s School in 1948 Charles began a 22-year stint in the USAF Strategic Air Command (SAC) starting with the 307 Bomb Wing in Mac Dill, FL. He flew a total of fifty-five (55) B-29 missions over Korea from Okinawa, returning in March 1951 to Mac Dill, FL as a B-29 instructor. Then from 1952 to 1958, Charles transitioned to flying B-36 bombers at Rapid City, SD, Ramey AFB, Puerto Rico and Travis AFB, CA. He then transferred to Beale AFB, CA to fly B-52 bombers, including extensive combat action in the Vietnam War, until July 1964 then attended Air War College. After graduation he was assigned wing staff Larson AFB, WA, Plattsburgh AFB, NY and Dyess AFB, TX where he retired as Lt. Col. On May 1, 1971. He lived in Abilene TX the rest of his life.
Charles was a highly decorated Air Force veteran and top of the class of the greatest generation. He was requested (and gladly obliged) to fly in multiple national air shows showing off his immense talent for piloting aircraft. He continued to attend annual Air Force reunions nationwide with his son David each year all the way through 2020. He has been the subject of multiple articles in newspapers and magazines worldwide and has appeared in TV shows and a couple movies as a pilot. In 2015, the tail of the P-47 that he was shot down in was found buried in Germany and presented to him at his home in Abilene TX to see and sign, then dedicated to the Texas Air Museum where it remains today as a memorial to a true American hero. On Veterans Day 2016, on the steps of the Texas State Capitol, he was awarded the Ordre National de la Legion d’honneur by French officials which is the highest military and civilian honor in France for his role in the liberation of their country in World War 2. In 2017, while accompanied by his granddaughter, Lacy Strelec, on a honor flight for Veterans to Washington DC, Charles was selected to lay the wreath on the tomb of the unknown soldier at Arlington National Cemetery which he later spoke of as being one of his highest honors. In addition to the Air Medal, Purple Heart and French Legion of Honor, Charles was also the recipient of the Air Force Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, American Defense Medal, American Theatre Campaign Medal, European/African/Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and the UN Medal.
Charles was an extremely friendly and social man who sincerely valued friendship and camaraderie. He made friends everywhere he went and touched various people’s lives in countless ways. He loved the outdoors and especially fishing. In the 1970’s he partnered with 3 other retired high-ranking military officers to buy land on the Colorado River West of Lampasas TX and build an amazing red brick cabin by hand. Although Charles was not the highest-ranking officer in the bunch you wouldn’t know it because he ran the operation start to finish and nobody doubted his leadership and ability to get things done. The cabin has been a source of happiness and relaxation for multiple generations of family and friends over the last 40 years and Charles loved going there multiple times a year, including the big fish fry each March where people would travel from all over the US to partake in a week of family, friends, fishing and fun.
Charles’ love for flying and passion for the skies never ceased. Following his retirement from the USAF, he and his friend Willie collected spare parts of a T-6 Texan which over several years they assembled and restored it to flying condition. Flying in the T-6 with Charles was a major highlight in the lives of countless kids, grandkids and great grandkids. Even after Charles’ flying days came to a halt due to vision degeneration, he could always be found at the hangar in Abilene talking flying with local pilots and friends. He was always plotting out flight paths, plans and fuel stops to get to various locations of loved ones and friends, including places far out of the country.
During a lifetime full of success and achievements in the Air Force, all of it took a backseat to Charles’ dedication and immense love for his family. His affection and devotion to his wife, Marguerite, was something only found in the best love stories. They were inseparable, and their love spanned the better part of a century and through multiple generations. His dedication and love for his children, David and Beverly, was readily apparent in his daily life as he was truly selfless and always found time for them. His grandkids and great grandkids brought him incredible joy. He was always surrounded by children and they mutually fed off each-others laughter, his was contagious. He was a magnet of fun and always had a game or joke to share with the kids. He was the ideal husband, father and grandfather. He made time for everyone in his life and there was never a dull moment when he was around. He was indeed the rock of his family, the pillar of strength and support and catalyst for its growth and success over the years. He was a remarkable man, who lived a truly spectacular life filled with both monumental challenges and triumphs and produced an incredible family that will actively talk about his legacy for ensuing generations. He was what every man strives to be and will truly be missed.
Charles is survived by his son David Allison and wife Betty Allison of Abilene. His daughter Beverly Pirtle of Abilene. Grandchildren Katie (Jeff) Elliott, Lacy (Jon) Strelec and Josh (Tracy) Cochran. Great-Grandchildren Kelsey (Steven) Reynolds, Molly Luthy, Allison Wonser, Logan Strelec, Liam Strelec and Jake Cochran. Great-Great-Grandchildren Lily Lester, Harper Reynolds and Cadence Reynolds. Graveside service will be held Thursday May 7, 2020 at the Little River Wilson Valley Cemetery at 11am.