Nonagenarian reflects at 95

Published 4:46 pm Wednesday, December 30, 2020

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Leon Deshields has had a full life


leon deshields

Leon Deshields of Franklin, who turned 95 this past fall, enjoyed another Christmas with his family. Stephen H. Cowles | The TIdewater News

Aside from his service during World War II, Leon Deshields has not led an especially risky or daredevil life. Perhaps that’s just as well, for he’s been able to be a businessman, a husband and family man. Yet, the 95-year-old Franklin resident acknowledges he wonders how he’s made it this far in age.

“I can’t understand why I’m living so long now,” Deshields said matter-of-factly.

At 17, the Maryland native joined Merchant Marines, and traveled the globe for four years, seeing countries such as Panama, Italy, France, Sicily and Australia. Owing to a pause before re-enlisting, the Army was able to draft him. That took him to places such as Papua New Guinea and the Philippines. His work was, essentially, with vehicles and transportation.

One time in his travels, he was on the USS Baldwin carrying a load of German prisoners of war that was to be taken to Norfolk.

leon deshields army

Among the many photographs of Leon Deshield’s life are those of his time in the Merchant Marines and Army. He served during World War II. Stephen H. Cowles | The Tidewater News

“I had a good time in the Army,” Deshields recalled, and added, “I never saw battle action.”

Following service to country, he returned home for a while, only to make his way further south in order to find work. For a time, Deshields worked in a restaurant, and later in the early 1960s opened one of own, Southern Manor, on Route 258, south of Franklin.

He’s delivered Pepperidge Farms products to businesses, been an analyst for Dupont in Richmond, worked for 15 years as a mechanic for Hercules and part-time with All State.

Deshields met his future wife, Myrtice, at the church where his father was the pastor. He remembered she once told someone right before a worship service in the sanctuary, “I’m saving that seat for Leon.”

Leon and Myrtice Deshields of Franklin were married for 59 years. Stephen H. Cowles | The Tidewater News

They were married and went on to have a family of their own. He’s living with his son, Welton and his wife, Lottie. Leon’s daughter is Donna, and her husband is David. There are four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Leon and Myrtice were together for 59 years; she died in July 2006.

“It wasn’t enough,” Deshields said of that time. “She got along with everybody.

Overall, he’s content with his life.

“It’s been a wonderful trip,” said Deshields.