MEEKER — He was part of what has become known as the Greatest Generation.
Orval LaBorde, a much-decorated veteran, died Saturday morning. He served in the Marines during World War II.
“He was one of the most loyal, patriotic, Christian Americans there ever was,” said his daughter Karen LaBonte of Meeker. “His country was extremely important to him and the freedom we have that they fought for in that war.”
LaBorde, 86, was a fixture in Meeker’s annual Range Call Fourth of July parade.
“He would wear his old wool uniform every Fourth of July,” said Tom Kilduff, Meeker VFW Post 5843 commander. “He was probably the proudest veteran in Rio Blanco County, and he was a good VFW member.”
Whenever there was a funeral for a local veteran, Kilduff said LaBorde would be there.
“He got so old he couldn’t stand, so we let him hold the flag and sit down, but he would stand at attention at present arms,” Kilduff said.
LaBorde’s unit received four presidential citations for its distinguished service during WWII.
“For his unit to get four, that means he was in the s… the whole time,” Kilduff said. “That’s pretty amazing that one unit would get four. That means the unit did some heroic stuff to win the battle.”
A frequent writer of letters to the editor that appeared in the Herald Times, Kilduff said LaBorde “was one of our favorite characters.”
“We’d always try to honor him every Fourth of July,” Kilduff said. “His main thing was the VFW and being a Marine.”
A small man in physical stature, LaBorde’s health suffered from the ravages of war.
“He had shrapnel (wounds),” his daughter said. “It was pretty bad over there. When he came home, he was dehydrated, he was undernourished, he had had malaria and Hepatitis A, I believe it was.”
LaBonte said her father believed strongly in service to country, and it pained him to see the values he fought for being eroded.
“He could see the country was just changing so much, in a lot of bad ways, and it just broke his heart,” LaBonte said. “I think most of the guys who fought in that war were like him. They were extremely conscientious of how important the freedom they were fighting for was, and still is.”
After the war, LaBorde attended college and then went to work for Shell Oil in Denver. He moved to Meeker in 1973. He was custodian at Barone Middle School until his retirement.
“He was doing really good, until just very recently,” LaBonte said. “He had some health issues, but they weren’t stopping him.”
He was surrounded by family when he died.
“We were all with him,” LaBonte said. “He knew it. He was alert to the end.”
Editor’s note: A final, brief letter written by Orval LaBorde on Friday, the day before he died, appears in this week’s Herald Times on Page 4A, along with a note by his daughter Karen LaBonte.