Lionel ‘Garry’ Garrison

Published 2:18 pm Monday, January 31, 2011

Lionel (“Garry”) Garrison passed peacefully on Jan. 13, 2011 at his home in Tryon Estates at the age of 93. He was born on July 5, 1917 in Estill County, Kentucky and spent his youth in and around the small town of Rogers, until attending Lee’s College in Jackson, Ky. Upon graduation he was accepted into the Navy’s “V-7” Program within the Officer Candidates School at Northwestern University. It was in Chicago that he met his future wife, Martha Janssen, while attending a church social with other midshipmen in April 1941. Upon completion of the V-7, Lionel was commissioned an ensign in the Naval Reserves, one year prior to another young man from the same program, John F. Kennedy.

Lionel reported for duty July 1941 aboard the U.S.S. Colorado, one of the country’s proudest warships, in service since 1927. Home-ported in Pearl Harbor, she was ordered to travel to Bremerton, Wash., to receive new gun mounts and a technological innovation, radar. While in Bremerton, Lionel continued to think of Martha and come September took the bold step of mailing her an engagement ring. She responded by boarding a train in Chicago and traveling west; they married the day following her arrival.

Assigned to the Pacific arena throughout WWII, Lionel advanced to main battery officer in charge of forward mounts, including the massive 16-inch guns. Receiving more “well done”s than any other ship in the Navy, the U.S.S. Colorado was privileged to be in port to witness the surrender of Japan. Within four years, Lionel achieved the rank of lieutenant commander, and retired from active duty in 1946.

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Over the years the growing family lived throughout the Midwest and eastern U.S. until moving to St. Croix, Virgin Islands in 1964 to manage a newly opened propane gas company. Six years later Lionel formed a roofing company, still operated today by his youngest daughter and son-in-law. In 1983, Lionel and Martha returned to the States and settled in North Carolina, first near Asheville and then Columbus. They were among the original residents of Tryon Estates in 1992.

Lionel was dedicated to the service of others, most notably children in need. Long affiliated with the Masons, he served in the Shrine Clubs of the Virgin Islands, Asheville, N.C., and Hendersonville, N.C., to assist countless numbers of children to receive orthopedic help. A lover of spirited dialogue and a champion for improvement, Lionel worked tirelessly to benefit those around him. He served as the first president of the residents’ association at Tryon Estates, unofficial culinary liaison, and due to his love of golf persuaded local courses to provide special accommodation to his fellow residents.

Lionel is survived by Martha, his wife of nearly 70 years, and their four children: Lionel of Englewood, N.J., Edward of the Navajo Nation, Ariz., Martha Bressi and Joanna Isherwood, both of St. Croix, as well as ten grandchildren and two great-grandchildren due in the spring.

A private memorial service is planned for February, at which time the family will gather from far and wide to remember a man who loved his family beyond measure, and will not soon be forgotten.