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Thursday, June 29, 2023
5:00 - 7:00pm (Central time)
Friday, June 30, 2023
Starts at 9:00am (Central time)
W. J. Lea, age 93, of Benton, Arkansas, died June 27, 2023, at the McClellan VA Hospital. Mr. Lea is survived by his wife of 73 years, Geraldine (Jerry) Lea; three children: Andrea Scallion (James Neff), Kyle Lea (Tammy Lea) and Jay Lea (Lisa Lea). He also leaves behind eleven grandchildren: Josh Lea, Katie Lea, Cory Montrose, Monica Cole, Mackenzie Brown, Connor Lea, Marissa Hall, Caleb Lea, Amanda Lea, Dylan Lea, and Marshall Lea as well as 5 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, Wallace James Lea and Mariah Mae Lea; 3 brothers and 6 sisters, as well as his son, Jacob Stanley Lea.
He was born in Sledge, Mississippi on July 2, 1929. He spent many years in Happy Valley, TN and loved to tell stories about his childhood there.
W. J. is a veteran of the Korean War and the Vietnam War, where he earned several medals, including the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. He entered the Army at age 17 at the end of WWII. He was stationed at Fort Bragg, NC where he was introduced to his future wife, Geraldine Shook, on a blind date. That very night he gave her his airborne wings and she accepted them and scratched his name into the back. They knew then they had met their true love. It was the beginning of a life together of adventures, challenges and a deep commitment to each other. They traveled to many states during his military service and lived together in Japan after WWII. He began his career in the Army with the 187 Airborne and served as a paratrooper during the Korean war. He was eventually chosen to attend OCS and graduated with honors. He served as a military advisor to the Vietnamese during the conflict and retired as a Lt. Colonel in 1972.
Once home, he attended the University of Nebraska and upon graduation became an Army ROTC instructor for many years and enjoyed working with young students. During that time, he also received an associate degree in Horticulture.
Above all of his many achievements in life, he will be remembered most for his active faith. He was ordained a deacon at Grandview Baptist in El Paso, Texas. The last 50 years he was active at Geyer Springs First Baptist Church in Little Rock, AR. He was also, along with his wife, involved in the Disaster Relief Ministry through the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and went on many mission trips with them.
A visitation will be held on Thursday, June 29, 2023 from 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm at Smith Little Rock Funeral Home, 8801 Knoedl Ct., Little Rock, AR. A funeral service with military honors will be held at Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery, 1501 W. Maryland Ave., North Little Rock, AR on Friday, June 30, 2023 at 9:00 am.