|January 18, 2023 From 11:00 am - 12:00 pm|
|Meadows Funeral Home|
|January 18, 2023 at 12:00 pm|
|Chapel of Meadows Funeral Home|
|Bethel Baptist Church Cemetery|
|Our Hero and His Love|
January 14, 2023
Our Daddy met our Mama at a church revival in the early 1940's. In the South, revivals were the big social event. People came from all over (by car, mule and wagon, by tractor, bicycle, on foot or however they could get there), bringing mountains of home-cooked food, old time preaching and with great expectations of witnessing the saving of souls, and other life altering experiences. Our Mama and her sister came to stay a few days with their aunt and uncle who lived near Bethel Baptist Church so they could attend such a revival. The first night she met our Daddy and following the service, he walked her back to her aunt and uncle's house. This was the beginning of their story.
Our Mama was the youngest of five children born to a farm family struggling to survive the Great Depression with a father who knew all too well the demons of alcohol and a sweet mother who quietly shouldered all her burdens and did the best she could do for her children. Times were rough everywhere. They grew everything they ate. They cleared the land and sowed and hoed and harvested. They milked the cows and tried to keep the pigs in the pen and the chickens from the foxes. They cut and carried wood and hauled water. All the kids worked and had to walk everywhere they went, even to school. Though she was smart and a quick learner, Mama quit school just three months shy of finishing the eighth grade. She was just too ashamed that they didn't have anything. Mama remembered an up-and-coming entertainer who came to the little country school one day; Minnie Pearl, complete with the tag hanging down from her hat. She also remembered Eleanor Roosevelt and her entourage visiting the school and she remembered how devastated she was when she heard that President Roosevelt had died and she hid behind the barn and cried all day. Her parents never owned an automobile nor their own home. They always lived on someone else land, and in exchange for a roof over their heads, they helped bring the crops in.
Our Daddy went off to war in 1942. He had never been away from home. He survived being shot, captured, and being held as a prisoner of war for almost a year. My Mama prayed and waited. His parents had almost given up on ever seeing him again when word came he was a POW, then the joyous news he was on his way home. Our Mama was waiting for him too, and in his brother's borrowed car, he and Mama sat in the front seat and were married by the Justice of the Peace in Bethlehem, in his front yard, then they went to his parents' house and started helping with the farm there and having their three children: John Ernest, Rose Marie, and Donny Ray. To help feed the family and save to get their own place, Daddy started working construction jobs and that developed into a lifelong career. He was later joined by his two sons when they started Walls Construction Company. Daddy retired in 1995, but he never slowed down. Grandchildren came along, then Great-Grandchildren, and now Great-Greats. He planted his garden, worked on his tractors, and loved all the little ones. Almost every Sunday afternoon would see him taking some or all of them walking and exploring in the woods. Sometimes he and Mama would load all of them in the back seat and they would drive somewhere to spend the night...oh what memories they made. For many years they took our whole family to Tybee Island for a week of good food, lots of laughter, and memory-making. When we lost Mama, the light seemed to dim in his eyes, but the love in his heart never faded. He was our rock and the memories we all have of him will be cherished for the rest of our lives.
And, boy, could he tell some wild stories!
United States Army Private First-Class Ernest William Walls from Monroe, GA was inducted into the 2017 Class of the GA Military Veterans' Hall of Fame for his heroism, determination, numerous acts of selfless bravery, wounds suffered, and deprivation as a Combat Infantry soldier and prisoner of war (POW) in World War II in the European theater of operations.
In late 1942 and just eight days after his 18th birthday, Ernest Walls enlisted in the Army, trained as an infantry rifleman, and was eventually part of the F Company, 22nd Infantry regiment, 4th Infantry Division. After much hard training, both in the US and England, on D-Day, June 6, 1944, now 19 yr. old PFC Walls was part of the largest amphibious operation in the history of warfare as he and hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers stormed the blood-stained beaches of Normandy, France.
Realizing that he and his buddies would most likely die, they nonetheless courageously disembarked their landing craft and fought their way across the killing fields of Utah Beach. During the initial assault, many of his friends, his Platoon Leader, and his Company Commander were killed. Six days later as his under - strength squad conducted a night patrol, they were taken under heavy fire by the enemy, resulting in his squad being decimated and PFC Walls becoming out of action with a gunshot wound in the back.
He immediately was captured and then spent the next year as a POW in a German Stalag in Brandenburg, Germany. In April 1945, he was liberated by fellow American soldiers, and in December 1945, he was honorably discharged from the Army.
However, for the next 55 years, he was not listed on any rolls as an American POW due to a clerical error of missing the letter "s" on his last name. In 2000, and only through the tenacious efforts of Mr. Tommy Clack, himself a 2013 GA Military Veterans' Hall of Fame Inductee, Ernest was finally and rightfully recognized as a former POW of World War II. PDFC Walls' combat awards include the Combat Infantry Badge, the Prisoner of War medal, the Bronze Star Medal for Combat service, and 2 Purple Hearts.
PFC Walls returned to Monroe where he went to work for Rutledge Construction. After a few years he started his own company. He married to his high-school sweetheart on May 19, 1945. Together they raised 3 children and have 6 grandkids, 9 great-grandkids, and 4 great-great-grandkids.
I asked him about the day he got home and he said, "There weren't a lot of cars, and I was on a bus from Atlanta to Winder. I was worried about finding a ride home from there. If I couldn't, then I would have to walk. Thankfully there was a guy that we knew that drove a fertilizer truck going by. He gave me a ride home because it was on his route. No one knew I was coming home that day. They knew that I was coming home but not when. I remember walking up on the porch, my brothers & sisters weren't there, just Mama and Daddy. We talked for a long time and they put me in an old car and drove me to see my girlfriend," future wife.