By Christine Hopwood
Franklin Theodore Luechtefeld was born on December 18, 1932 to Edward and Elizabeth Luechtefeld in Leslie, MO. He was the sixth of eight children that were raised on a farm. He attended Holy Family Catholic Parrish/School. He was a bright student but only completed 8th grade, as he had to help his father on the farm. During the Korean War in 1953, Frank, just like his older and younger brothers, was drafted. His two oldest brothers, Harold and Bernard went into the Navy prior to his draft. Frank and his brother, James went into the Army. A few years later, his younger brother, Edward, also being drafted, went into the Army. Before he was drafted, Frank met a sweet 16-year-old girl from Clover Bottom. They communicated through letters for the two years he was gone.
Frank was one of 12 men from Franklin County inducted into the armed forces on February 19, 1953. Luechtefeld completed his 16-week training cycle at Fort Leonard Wood with the unit of the 6th Armoured Division. As a trainee, he completed 8 weeks of basic training in the fundamentals of Army life and the use of infantry weapons and an additional 8 weeks of engineer training. He was taught the use of pioneer and power tools, construction of fixed and floating bridges and relation sub-skills.
Education was important to Frank. While in the service, he was able to complete his education and receive his GED.
Shortly after training, Frank was sent to Korea. While on the U.S. Naval Ship General H.B. Freeman, from Sasebo, Japan to Korea on July 27, 1953, he received the news the war was over.
While stationed in Korea, Sgt. Luechtefeld was with the Company A of the 430th Engineers Construction Battalion. He not only helped build the Quonset, he also helped build a Catholic Church in Hongshon, Korea. As their group supervised the construction, they also had help from the natives. The church was made with hand chipped granite rock. He said the natives showed a great deal of patience in chipping and hand smoothing the rock. One of his favorite things while stationed in Korea was receiving the Missourian as he stated in a letter to his beloved Carol.
Sgt. Luechtefeld was released from Active Military Service and transferred to the Army Reserve for 8 years. He received the Korean Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, and a Good Conduct Medal. He received his honorable discharge March 11, 1961.
After his time in the service, Frank returned to his roots. He married the sweet girl he had kept in contact with while overseas. Frank was united in marriage to Carol J. Thomassen on June 22, 1957. Together, they built a home on the family property in Leslie, MO, raising five children, Michael, Mark, Lynda, John and Christine. He was a great provider for his family.
Frank worked for the United States Government from 1967 until his retirement in 1993 as a Quality Control Inspector with the Defense Supply Agency and the Defense Logistics Agency.
In addition to his the medals received during active service, he received the Outstanding Patriotism award in recognition of dedicated logistical support during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and countless superior service, performance and dedication awards from the Defense Logistics Agency and Defense Supply Agency. He was also named National Employee of the Year in 1985 and received an award in 1993 for 27 years of outstanding service and a Certificate of Appreciation from Franklin County Law Enforcement for his loyal support of area officers.
With all his success, medals, and awards, none of them meant more to him than his family. He had an unconditional love for his family. He was a humble man, very intelligent, good with his hands, loved sports and politics. He was known for his love of trout fishing, quail and turkey hunting, golfing, dart-ball and crossword puzzles. Frank was loved and admired by his family. This was proven by having grandchildren and great grandchildren named after him, to carry on his name.
In his later years, he didn’t talk much about his time in Korea. I wish I had the opportunity to talk to him about it now. However, at the age of 68, on Nov. 4, 2001, he lost his battle with cancer, and passed peacefully in his home with his loving wife, children, and grandchildren beside him.
Words can’t express how much he is missed. Thoughts of who he used to be before he was a husband & father will always haunt me. In researching him for this article as I held photos with his handwriting in my hands, I learned something about my father that I never knew. The passion I felt was overwhelming. He wasn’t just a great dad. He was a great man.
If you have a parent or grandparent that is still with you, talk to them about their life before they had a family, when they were young. It’s not just words or stories, it is history, their history, your history.