Hometown Hero: Korean War POW Laid to Rest in the Ozarks

ABESVILLE, Mo. -- Billy Joe Harris was only 18 years old when he was captured during the Korean War. He spent two and a half years as a prisoner.

His daughter, Connie Wells, said he never talked about the "bad things" that happened as a prisoner of war, he focused on the kindness of the Korean people.

"The kind things that they did. The funny things that happened in their POW camp that made the time go by. He tried to remember it as it was but he didn't want to dwell on the times that were painful for him."

In 1953, he came home and the community in Crane bought him a car to thank him for his service. A short time later he married the love of his life Peggy Baker and they had two beautiful daughters. Thirty years passed and Harris returned to Korea for the 30th anniversary of the war. Harris kept in contact with other survivors of the prison camp. They shared something in common that no words could ever describe.

Harris survived two and half a years as a prisoner of war and he battled cancer for two and a half years. That fight ended in May. He was given Military Honors at the Missouri Veterans Cemetery, that's something that made his family proud. "It was a validation of what he did and his time in the service and how he helped people," said Wells.

Harris was a proud man who wouldn't accept medals and didn't want his name on any plaques. There was one exception, he kept the medal given to him during his return to Korea. It was a time he got closure.

"He never felt about himself as a hero he was doing his duty he was there to do a job. He felt that he was just one of the lucky ones that was able to come home."

Billy Joe Harris was 82 years old. There are now four known survivor's  from his prison camp, according to his family.

Full obituary from Adams Funeral Home in Nixa:

Billy Joe Harris, age 82, passed away Monday, May 13, 2013, in his home, after a 2 year courageous battle with cancer, in rural Galena. He was born to Efton and Inez "Cox" Harris on March 23, 1931, in Stone County.

Bill proudly served his country in the U.S. Army, during the Korean War, and was a prisoner of war for two and one half years. Bill married the love of his life, Peggy Baker, December 16, 1954. He was a life time farmer, and worked for Dayco, in Springfield, for many years.

Bill loved to fish and hunt. He was an excellent Coon hunter. Bill loved the Lord and was very active in his church at Galena Baptist Church. He served as Deacon and taught Sunday school. Bill had a special place in his heart for his grandkids and his great grandkids. Bill loved his family and made sure they were taken care of.

Bill is survived by: his wife, Peggy, daughter Connie Wells, and husband Daniel, of Nixa, two brothers, Harold Harris, and wife Imogene, of Galena, and Bobby Jack Harris, and wife Sylvia, of Galena, three grandchildren, and nine great grandchildren, and many friends. Bill is preceded in death by: his parents, and a daughter, Patty Holt.

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