From the Ridiculous to the Courageous: Notable People Who Passed On in 2011 | Eastern North Carolina Now

As we march further into the proverbial "Book of Life," and as we close the Chapter of 2011 and open the Chapter of 2012, it is tradition that we examine the lives of notable people that have passed on before us.


Major Richard "Dick" D. Winters: Born January 21, 1918, died January 2, 2011 - pictured above.

   We began with the ridiculous, and now we finish with the truly courageous.

   Major Dick Winters, of the 101st Airborne and a practicing Quaker, was a good bit of the inspiration for Historian Stephen Ambrose's book, "Band of Brothers," which was made into a titular HBO miniseries. The series was produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, which chronicled the exploits of Easy Company through Normandy, then France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany in the last year of World War II. Much of the miniseries was told from the first person of the heroic officer.

   Dick Winter began his part in the actual fighting of the "Great War" on June 5, 1944, when he was air dropped (parachuted) behind enemy Nazi lines in the Normandy region of France. His heroics in that "longest of days," and the ensuing weeks after the Allied Invasion of "Fortress Europe" can best be explained from a segment of Wyatt Sanderman Day's review of "Band of Brothers:

   From his airborne training at Camp Toccoa, Georgia to his first day in Normandy when he commanded the assault on two batteries of 88 millimeter artillery pieces at Brecourt Manor that were shelling Utah Beach with impunity, Lieutenant Winters proved that he would lead his command without trepidation against superior numbers and overpower the objective. The destruction of these batteries is still studied at West Point as a textbook case of how to attack a fixed position. He and Easy Company, although their casualties were enormous, were successful in their fierce encounters with the Wermacht from Normandy, through the towns of Carentan and Cherborg, and the roads and countryside between them, until they were relieved to return to England to train for the Market Garden campaign in Holland.

   Major Winters told Historian Stephen Ambrose that he wasn't sure he would live through the war, and that he knelt down and prayed after D-Day. This proved to be yet another moving scene in this highly rated miniseries, considered by many as the best drama regarding war ever made.

   Major Richard Winters, who received numerous awards and medals for valor, was once asked: Did he feel that he was a hero?

   To which the gracious Pennsylvania Quaker responded: "No, but I served in a company of heroes."

   Major Dick Winters died of natural causes. He was almost 93 years of age.
A noticeably feeble Dick Winters stands at a podium with president George W. Bush (right) during his re-election campaign in 2004.

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