Joy Leo (J.L.) Thurmond, 93, passed away Sept. 23, in San Antonio, Texas. He was born on a small farm near Leesville, Texas, on March 15, 1924 to Wiley Jefferson and Janie Catherine O’Neill Thurmond. He was the youngest of 12 and everyone affectionately called him “Son.” Growing up in the country was often challenging, especially during the Depression. He often told stories of times he and his dad would go fishing or hunting together. He thought of these times as recreational, but later came to realize it was the way they put food on the table.
He graduated from Nixon High School in 1941 with his twin sister, Joyce. He then went on the basic training and was a pilot in the United States Army Air Corp during WWII. He trained to fly P38s. He laughed when he told stories of flying to Nixon and “buzzing” his unsuspecting friends and neighbors in that plane.
He met the love of his life, Wilma Cletty Neer, in Coffeyville, Kansas and was married on Dec. 9, 1945. He was very proud of his “little Kansas sunflower”. He told of meeting her as she drove by him as he was walking down the main street in Coffeyville. She, who was also a pilot, inquired whether he was one too. The rest, of course, is history.
They moved to Houston and raised their one son, Steve, before moving back to Gonzales County and raising one of their granddaughters, Elaine.
You could never take the country out of J.L. In his retirement he built, by hand his own home, and enjoyed fishing on the river and taking long walks down the dirt road to look for arrowheads. He left a long legacy behind.
He was preceded in death by his parents, son, wife, and all 11 of his brothers and sisters. He is survived by granddaughters, Elaine Stephanie Thurmond Schutter and husband David, and Pamela April Thurmond Thompson and husband Jason. He is also survived by great-grandson Dawson Tres Schutter and great-granddaughters April Rae Thompson and Kaylin Ann Thompson. Numerous loving nieces and nephews also survive him.
A visitation will be held at Finch Funeral Chapel in Nixon on Saturday, Sept. 30, from 5-8 p.m. Services will be held Sunday, Oct. 1, at 2 p.m. with the Rev. Michael Cowey officiating. Burial will follow at the Caraway Cemetery near Nixon, Texas. A reception will follow at the Belmont Community Center. Memorial contributions may be made to the Caraway Cemetery Association. The online guestbook may be signed at www.finchfuneralchapels.com.