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News From The Past

October 16, 2002



WWII Flying Ace Ailing in Mid-Michigan

World War II hero Joe Foss is pictured with his wife Donna Wild Foss and great-great-nephew Justin Mishler of Beaverton this past Easter.

Former South Dakota governor, highly decorated veteran falls ill while in town to speak at Beaverton High School


by Marie Hopfensperger Gladwin County Record

Joe Foss is a man of his word, and when Foss told his great-great-nephew Justin Mishler he would speak at Beaverton High School, he meant it. However, a health crisis prevented him from honoring the commitment.

One of the most highly decorated heroes of World War II, Foss arrived in Gladwin County with plans to talk with Beaverton students, including Mishler whose application to West Point Military Academy Foss sponsored, last Tuesday, but the 86-year-old fell ill last Monday morning.

Foss was initially treated at MidMichigan Medical Center - Clare and then transferred to St. Luke’s Covenant Cooper Campus in Saginaw. According to his niece Sandra Vining of Edenville, doctors have not determined exactly what happened, but indicated that he may have suffered a stroke.

Foss remains in critical condition and has been unconscious since falling ill. Vining added that neither doctors nor family members are speculating about his prognosis.

Vining said well wishes and prayers have been streaming in from around the world, and she mentioned the family is appreciative of the kindness they have received from the local VFW, American Legion and Beaverton High School.

“Our wish as the family and extended family is that people offer up their prayers and hopes. He has had a wonderful life, and we hope he has a little more time,” she said.

“He is still with us. We’re thankful of that, but right now there is no change,” she continued. “It’s just a question of waiting this out and hoping for the very best.”

Vining indicated that Foss would be airlifted to Phoenix, Arizona to be nearer to his immediate family if his condition stabilizes.

The U.S. Air Force flying ace shot down 26 enemy planes during World War II and received the Medal of Honor for his heroics. Foss also served in the Korean Conflict and was brigadier general and chief of staff with the South Dakota Air National Guard.

A native of South Dakota, Foss capped his triumphant military career with an equally successful career in politics. He served as a representative in the South Dakota State Legislature and was governor of the state from 1954 to 1958.

He was at one time the commissioner of the American Football League, a past president of the National Rifle Association, and extremely active with Christian and charitable organizations. He and his wife Donna Wild Foss co-authored a book entitled Top Guns and Wild Foss penned her husband’s biography A Proud American - Joe Foss.

Vining said the family has copies of Foss’ biography. For information about the book, contact Vining at (989) 689-4933.



© 2002, by The Gladius County Record

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