By Kevin Wilson
Long before Jack Sturman was protecting the country, he was protecting his family, and most of Elida.
Sturman, who died June 25 at his home in Tulia, served as a big brother for his four siblings on the family ranch and the people he grew up with in the area.
“He’s the greatest big brother that ever could be,” sister Janie Sturman said. “I think when they made the mold, he was it.”
Jack was born May 21, 1922, in Elida to John Floyd and Ruby Bell Sturman and was part of the second generation of the Sturman Ranch.
He was the oldest of five children, and would go out of his way to protect each one of them. Floydene (Dee) Groves, the oldest sister, was prepared to be in quite a bit of trouble after she drove her new car into a stone archway at one of Elida’s two churches — especially since she was a member of the other one.
Fortunately, Jack came up in his vehicle a few minutes later, told Dee to go home and let him take care of it. The archway got fixed and the punishment Dee got was a lecture from her mother.
“I kept waiting for my dad to yell at me, for the other shoe to fall,” Groves said, “and it didn’t.”
Groves said that the pattern usually consisted of middle brother Bill starting a fight, youngest brother Frank fighting it and oldest brother Jack breaking it up before somebody got hurt.
“He was just a fantastic brother,” Groves said. “He was the one that looked after all of us.”
That didn’t mean he was always a serious man. Janie said that the group had many good times together, doing “mostly anything we could make up. In Elida, we didn’t have a lot of facilities.”
During the heavy rains of 1941, Jack took spare pieces of wood and formed a board. He tied the board to his Chevy Roadster, and made impromptu wakeboarding sessions for his brothers and sisters.
Throughout the fun, Jack made sure to protect his family. It was something that didn’t go unnoticed by the rest of Elida.
“Any time there was a party in Elida, usually everybody went,” Groves said. “All the parents of kids that were invited to go asked, ‘Is Jack Sturman going to be there?’ If they said yes, they could go.”
Later on, he decided to help protect America. He volunteered in 1942 for service in the United States Army, and family members said his training included Peery, Ohio and Camp Campbell in Kentucky (now Fort Campbell).
It was at Camp Campbell that Jack became a member of the Ordinance Maintenance Battalion of the 12th Armored Division. The division was deployed in France in support of Patton’s 3rd Army in its drive through France to Germany. His division was pulled out of the line by General Patton to move to the support of the embattled forces at Bastogne, gaining the title of the “Mystery Division of this Division.”
The unit then veered south into Austria. He suffered injuries when his heavy equipment vehicle struck a land mine. He received the French Commemorative Medal “Croix de Guerre” (French military decoration for bravery in action) and a personal letter of commendation from then-President Harry Truman.
Jack eventually returned to the area, and married Wanda Haislip in 1950 in Portales. In 1951, the two moved to Tulia, where they owned and operated J-Gee Department Store for the next 50 years.
While in Tulia, Jack was a member of the American Legion, the Tulia Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis and the Swisher County Industrial Foundation.
Not all of his family members spoke compliments of Jack. Instead, they chose to write it down.
Frank Sturman read a letter to Jack during services last week in Tulia.
“Jack was a common man in his association with fellow men, but uncommon in dedication of service to others in need of help or comfort,” Frank said in his letter.
“Jack, a citizen, soldier and patriot of the highest order, fought through Europe during World War II, with his beloved 12th Armored Division. Although we often found it difficult to express our bond in words of endearment, we all knew you loved and were loved totally.”