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Wilbert G. ‘Tex’ Dettmann

Wilbert G. ‘Tex’ Dettmann

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October 12, 2011
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Wilbert G. “Tex” Dettmann, a World War II submarine veteran, died on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011, in his home in Canterbury, Conn., surrounded by his loving family. He was born in Wallace Branch near Stockdale, Texas, on Sept. 16, 1919, one of seven children born to Herman and Alvina (Stahl) Dettmann.

Tex graduated from Stockdale High School and enlisted in the U.S. Navy in November 1939. While serving on the submarine tender USS Holland (AS-3), he volunteered for submarine duty. He was at the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, and lived with the terrible memories of that tragic day for the remainder of his life. He served on the USS Swordfish (SS-193), the USS Thresher (SS-200) -- where he completed eight war patrols, the USS Anthedon (AS-24), the USS Pogy (SS-266), and the USS Redfish (SS-395). He was honorably discharged in 1946 as a chief fire controlman. He was recalled to service during the Korean Conflict and served on the USS Threadfin (SS-410). In 2008, in recognition of the World War II submarine service of this Texas “farmboy,” he was made an honorary crewmember of the USS Texas (SSN-775), one of the newest Virginia Class submarines. His commendations and awards include the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the Good Conduct Medal, the Asiatic Pacific Medal, the American Defense Medal (with one star), the American Theater Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal. He was authorized to wear the Submarine Combat Insignia (with seven stars).

After leaving the Navy in 1952, he worked as an electrical construction supervisor for 20 years and belonged to the IBEW union. While stationed at the New London Submarine Base in1945, he met the love of his life, Arlene Allard of Plainfield, Conn. They spent the next 65 years together, raising their family in Plainfield, operating Tex’s Cork and Keg on Route 12, and touring America in retirement. They spent 20 years in Vero Beach, Fla., and then returned to Plainfield in 2006. Arlene predeceased him in May 2010.

He was a life member of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, World War II Submarine Veterans (Thames Valley Chapter), and the Holland Club. He was a three-time commander of the William L. Mercier VFW Post 5446 in Plainfield. His last official act of patriotism was serving as grand marshal of this year’s Victory in Japan (VJ) Day Parade in Moosup, Conn.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Arlene Dettmann, and his parents.

Tex is survived by his daughters, Cheryl Hurley and husband Michael of Plainfield, Conn., Linda Franzitta and husband Anthony, retired U.S. Navy commander, of Virginia Beach, Va., and Judy Gilkenson and husband George of Canterbury, Conn.; and his grandchildren, Brenda Hurley of Bradenton, Fla., Amanda Klein of Moosup, Conn., Dr. Marisa Christensen of Charlottesville, Va., Christopher Franzitta of New York, N.Y., Sherin Gilkenson of Plainfield, Nicholas Franzitta of Virginia Beach, Va., and Jared Gilkenson of Plainfield. He also leaves seven great-grandchildren who adored him, Lauren and Emma Klein, Sophia and Dylan Christensen, Brianna and Brookelyn Gilkenson, and Kolby Palmisano. In addition, he is survived by his sister, Selma Richards and husband Thomas of Petal, Mich.; his sisters-in-law, Jeannette Gaudreau and husband Leo of Vero Beach, Fla., and Roberta Dettmann of Horseshoe Bay, Texas; and numerous nieces and nephews. He will be missed by all who had the pleasure to know him.

A memorial Mass of Christian burial was celebrated Saturday Oct. 8, at 10 a.m. in the St. John the Apostle Church in Plainfield.

Burial with military honors followed in the St. John Cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Pearl Harbor Memorial Fund, World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, 1 Arizona Memorial Place, Honolulu, HI 96818. Attn: Superintendent. Check should be made payable to the National Park Service.

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