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Makeup of vets' panel to change with death of WWI vet

March 22, 2002|BY LAURA ERNDE

When Lewis Powell of Halfway died at the age of 101, he became the last World War I veteran to serve on the Maryland Veterans Commission.

Because there's no else from his generation available to serve on the commission, the Maryland General Assembly is considering legislation to appoint a representative from the Persian Gulf War in his place.

"It's too bad he didn't have a chance to pass the torch himself," said his son David H. Powell of Hagerstown.

Lewis Powell served on the commission for 25 years, right up until his death in December.

Fellow commission member Charles E. Reeder of Hagerstown would drive him to the meetings held in Baltimore four times a year.

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"He was just one fine gentleman. We should have more like him," said Reeder, a World War II veteran.

Powell lied about his age so he could enlist in the U.S. Army during the war, his son said.

By the time Powell got to France, Armistice Day had come and gone. But Powell then went to Germany as a supply sergeant.

After his military service, he worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 28 years.

It was after he retired in 1962 that he really became active, David Powell said.

In addition to his work on the Veterans Commission, Powell served as president of the local chapter of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees.

His wife, Olive Powell, died in 1999.

He lived on his own and was in relatively good health until his death. A nurse came to his house in Halfway every day.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, helped Powell get reappointed to the commission.

After Powell died, the commission couldn't find any World War I veterans who were physically able to serve.

Munson introduced legislation to change the makeup of the commission, replacing the World War I veteran with a Persian Gulf veteran.

The Maryland Senate unanimously passed the bill Thursday and it now moves to the House, which has until April 8 to act.

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