- The Washington Times - Monday, August 14, 2006

Rufus H. Wilson, a former administrator of the Veterans Administration (VA), died Aug 1. at Howard County General Hospital in Columbia, Md., of complications from a perforated colon. He was 80.

Mr. Wilson, who lived in Columbia, was deputy VA administrator under President Carter and served as acting administrator during the first months of the Reagan administration.

He served as a Marine Corps corporal during World War II from 1943 to 1945, when he was critically injured at Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands. He was awarded two Purple Hearts, two Battle Stars and a Unit Citation.

His severe spinal injuries left him a complete quadriplegic. He underwent extensive treatment and physical rehabilitation at the U.S. Naval Hospital in San Diego and the VA Hospital in Dearborn, Mich., before being released with residual partial paralysis in his legs and right arm.

Mr. Wilson devoted his life to veterans and their issues. For his efforts, he received the National Civil Service League Career Service Award and the Exceptional Service Award.

He served as a special assistant to the administrator of the VA before he was elected national commander of AMVETS in 1954 — the youngest man to lead that organization.

He rejoined the VA in 1955, working in the Department of Veterans Benefits, then the Congressional Liaison Service.

From 1958 to 1968, Mr. Wilson successively managed the VA regional offices in St. Petersburg, Fla.; Lincoln, Neb.; and Baltimore.

He was the agency’s chief benefits director in 1969, and a year later became associate deputy administrator — the third-highest position in the VA. During the next four years, he oversaw the VA’s hospital and outpatient clinic construction and administrative programs throughout the United States.

Mr. Wilson was the first person to head the Veterans Administration National Cemetery System when he became chief memorial affairs director in 1974.

Following the passage of the National Cemeteries Act in 1973, he oversaw the VA’s takeover of 82 cemeteries and 1,000 employees from the Department of the Army.

He left his position of chief memorial affairs director in 1975 to retake the position of chief benefits director.

A lifelong Republican, he tried to resign in 1977 after President Carter’s inauguration, only to be asked by incoming VA Administrator Max Cleland to become his deputy. Mr. Wilson accepted the invitation and spent the next four years as the VA’s chief executive officer.

Mr. Wilson accepted an offer from the House Veterans Affairs Committee to become minority (Republican) counsel and staff director.

He retired from public service in 1989.

He received a bachelor of arts degree from American University in 1946 and a law degree from the University of Baltimore in 1969.

Mr. Wilson was born in Sweetwater, Tenn., and was married to the former Florence Mieczkowski of Toledo, Ohio, from 1949 until her death in 1985.

He is survived by two sons, Douglas H. Wilson of Columbia and Michael T. Wilson of Crofton, Md.; a daughter, Lauren W. Evans of Herndon; four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren; and his sister, Celena W. Clinesmith of Northville, Mich.

A funeral is scheduled for 3 p.m. Aug. 29 at Arlington National Cemetery.

Memorial donations can be sent to AMVETS National Service Foundation, 4647 Forbes Blvd., Lanham, MD 20706.

Harold Leaming, 68,Air Force captain

Harold Leon Leaming, a retired Air Force captain, died July 15 at his home in San Antonio after battling cancer. He was 68.

Capt. Leaming was born July 7, 1938, in Golden City, Mo., and grew up on his parents’ farm in Carthage, Mo.

After graduating from high school in 1956, he began a 22-year career in the Air Force in which he specialized in telecommunications.

His career allowed him and his family to travel throughout the world and live in Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico, Texas, Virginia and the Philippines.

After he retired from the Air Force, Capt. Leaming worked for Aeronautical Radio Incorporated Research and McDonnell Douglas. He also served as an Air Force civil servant.

He and his wife moved from Fredericksburg, Va., to San Antonio.

After retiring from his second career in 2003, Capt. Leaming pursued hobbies such as carpentry and military history.

He also enjoyed listening to country music, watching his grandchildren play and taking car trips to reconnect with his family in Missouri.

Friends and family said Capt. Leaming was a patient, gentle and generous man who had a strong faith in God and a profound sense of duty to his country.

Survivors include his wife of 47 years, Dorothy Leaming of San Antonio; three daughters, Michelle Brecht of Lake Oswego, Ore., Steffanee Leaming of Los Angeles and Courtney Burke of San Antonio; two sons, Brent Leaming and Lance Leaming, both of San Antonio; three brothers, Don Leaming and Charles Leaming, both of Jasper, Mo., and Roger Leaming of Carthage, Mo.; a sister, Linda Schonfurber of Nixa, Mo.; and seven grandchildren.

Memorial donations can be made to the American Cancer Society, San Antonio Metro, P.O. Box 291048, San Antonio, TX 78229-1048.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide