Celebration Magazine Cover Stories 

As a former Ms. Texas Senior America 1997, it is my privilege to interview our reigning Ms. Texas Senior America Queen, Joyce Brown. The beauty of our MTSA Queen Joyce  is not in the clothes she wears, the figure she carries or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of Joyce is seen through her eyes, because this is the  doorway to her heart where love resides. When you shine within....you don't need a spotlight! Joyce has proven to be an example of our mission statement for the Ms. Texas Senior America Pageant.


This Pageant is redefining the senior woman championing healthy aging, wellness and mental well-being. Joyce has had many opportunities during her reign to empower senior women, exemplifying the “positive image of aging,” promoting the senior woman in all her glory. She is a wonderful role model to her peers and the younger generation.


Joyce lives in Flower Mound and married to Lennel. They have 2 children and 2   grandchildren. She has a B.S. Degree in Electrical Engineering Technology. Joyce worked 38 years in the technology field at two major companies. She had the opportunity to manage, mentor, develop, and empower many of her employees for 28 years. She retired from Abbott Laboratories after 30 years of service.
At the age of 59, Joyce felt she had to define 60 for herself instead of letting 60 define her. She started attending boot camp classes four to five times a week. She began losing weight and in four months lost 30 lbs by changing her diet, eating healthier, and working out. In 2018 Joyce became a Certified Health Coach. Her certification supported  her platform of Health and Fitness, while understanding the poor lifestyles that cause many diseases and the challenges and control food has on people. Her goal is to educate and encourage people to make better choices to improve their health and confidence.


Joyce felt good about herself and decided to step out of her box and do something she had never before entertained and that was to enter a senior pageant. She started searching on the internet and found the Ms. Texas Senior America website. You have to be 60 years young to enter the pageant and she had just turned 60. She called Dr. Syntha West , Contestant Coordinator and signed up for the MTSA pageant in 2018. She hired a choreographer to help her with a fitness routine to music for her talent. Joyce didn't win the title, but because of her positive attitude, she felt she was a “winner” in that she had the courage to even participate.


Joyce decided to enter the pageant again in 2019 and her choreographer changed her talent to a dance. She was stunning in her top hat and tails as she danced to the song, “I Won't Dance”, (from the musical Roberta) which starred Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. After winning the  coveted title of Ms. Texas Senior America, she competed in Atlantic City last October in the Ms. Senior America Pageant. She represented Texas and made us proud!


Joyce is a self -starter and has  made over 70 appearances including parades. Several of her highlights were when County Commissioner Bobbie J. Mitchel presented her with a Proclamation proclaiming February 2020 as “Joyce Brown, Ms. Texas Senior  America 2019 Month in Denton County in honor of Black History.” Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson invited her to be the Moderator for her Annual Senior Living Conference held in March  at the University of North Texas Campus, Denton. Joyce also received her 2nd Proclamation from Texas Senator Jane Nelson who represents District  12.


As a MTSA title holder, her platform is to encourage women of all ages to step outside of their comfort zones and stretch themselves to live their best lives. She feels we should live our lives intentionally and purposefully, because we were not created to live average lives, but to be much more, overcoming our fears and become the best we can be!  One of her favorite scriptures, Ephesians 3:20 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power.” The choices we have made in our lives are lessons learned  we can apply to future endeavors. Her goal is to inspire and empower her peers and the younger generation letting them know that failure is impossible when they put their best foot forward regardless of age. At 62 years young Joyce stated...”My life has really improved tremendously because I kicked open the box I had created for myself. I am stretching myself in ways I never would have considered 5 years ago.” •


Please come and watch Joyce take her last walk across the stage as 2019 Ms. Texas Senior America, DoubleTree Hotel, 4099 Valley View Lane, Dallas,  Saturday August l, beginning 1:00 pm. Tickets $20  each.  Scott Murray and I will be emceeing  the MTSA Pageant again this year. Contact information is www.mstexassenioramerica.com.

by Mary Francis Hansen, April/May 2020 

Joyce Brown, Ms. Texas Senior America 2019

As a former Ms. Texas Senior America 1997, it is my privilege to interview our reigning Ms. Texas Senior America Queen, Joyce Brown. The beauty of our MTSA Queen Joyce  is not in the clothes she wears, the figure she carries or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of Joyce is seen through her eyes, because this is the  doorway to her heart where love resides. When you shine within....you don't need a spotlight! Joyce has proven to be an example of our mission statement for the Ms. Texas Senior America Pageant.


This Pageant is redefining the senior woman championing healthy aging, wellness and mental well-being. Joyce has had many opportunities during her reign to empower senior women, exemplifying the “positive image of aging,” promoting the senior woman in all her glory. She is a wonderful role model to her peers and the younger generation.


Joyce lives in Flower Mound and married to Lennel. They have 2 children and 2   grandchildren. She has a B.S. Degree in Electrical Engineering Technology. Joyce worked 38 years in the technology field at two major companies. She had the opportunity to manage, mentor, develop, and empower many of her employees for 28 years. She retired from Abbott Laboratories after 30 years of service.
At the age of 59, Joyce felt she had to define 60 for herself instead of letting 60 define her. She started attending boot camp classes four to five times a week. She began losing weight and in four months lost 30 lbs by changing her diet, eating healthier, and working out. In 2018 Joyce became a Certified Health Coach. Her certification supported  her platform of Health and Fitness, while understanding the poor lifestyles that cause many diseases and the challenges and control food has on people. Her goal is to educate and encourage people to make better choices to improve their health and confidence.


Joyce felt good about herself and decided to step out of her box and do something she had never before entertained and that was to enter a senior pageant. She started searching on the internet and found the Ms. Texas Senior America website. You have to be 60 years young to enter the pageant and she had just turned 60. She called Dr. Syntha West , Contestant Coordinator and signed up for the MTSA pageant in 2018. She hired a choreographer to help her with a fitness routine to music for her talent. Joyce didn't win the title, but because of her positive attitude, she felt she was a “winner” in that she had the courage to even participate.


Joyce decided to enter the pageant again in 2019 and her choreographer changed her talent to a dance. She was stunning in her top hat and tails as she danced to the song, “I Won't Dance”, (from the musical Roberta) which starred Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. After winning the  coveted title of Ms. Texas Senior America, she competed in Atlantic City last October in the Ms. Senior America Pageant. She represented Texas and made us proud!


Joyce is a self -starter and has  made over 70 appearances including parades. Several of her highlights were when County Commissioner Bobbie J. Mitchel presented her with a Proclamation proclaiming February 2020 as “Joyce Brown, Ms. Texas Senior  America 2019 Month in Denton County in honor of Black History.” Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson invited her to be the Moderator for her Annual Senior Living Conference held in March  at the University of North Texas Campus, Denton. Joyce also received her 2nd Proclamation from Texas Senator Jane Nelson who represents District  12.


As a MTSA title holder, her platform is to encourage women of all ages to step outside of their comfort zones and stretch themselves to live their best lives. She feels we should live our lives intentionally and purposefully, because we were not created to live average lives, but to be much more, overcoming our fears and become the best we can be!  One of her favorite scriptures, Ephesians 3:20 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power.” The choices we have made in our lives are lessons learned  we can apply to future endeavors. Her goal is to inspire and empower her peers and the younger generation letting them know that failure is impossible when they put their best foot forward regardless of age. At 62 years young Joyce stated...”My life has really improved tremendously because I kicked open the box I had created for myself. I am stretching myself in ways I never would have considered 5 years ago.” •


Please come and watch Joyce take her last walk across the stage as 2019 Ms. Texas Senior America, DoubleTree Hotel, 4099 Valley View Lane, Dallas,  Saturday August l, beginning 1:00 pm. Tickets $20  each.  Scott Murray and I will be emceeing  the MTSA Pageant again this year. Contact information is www.mstexassenioramerica.com.

by Mary Francis Hansen, April/May 2020 

Joyce Brown, Ms. Texas Senior America 2019

1960’s Las Vegas saw the arrival of director Lewis Milestone and a star-studded cast to complete shooting the heist film, “Ocean’s 11.” Its principal stars, Frank, Sammy and Dean were on the set by day, and playing the showrooms at night.... often crashing the other’s acts until dawn.


The Sands marquee read, DEAN MARTIN - MAYBE SAMMY - MAYBE FRANK


Las Vegas was flush with the world’s finest entertainers and Frank, Sammy and Dean were the main event. The scene became legend.
The memory of those times is indelible and the impact they had on American culture,entertainment and style continues to influence and inspire. But you won’t find any famous marquees or Copa Room stage to snap a quick selfie. Only a few plaques commemorating the spots where kings once played are all that remain. By and by the legendary showrooms have been imploded and replaced with roller coasters and mega resorts.


Today, thanks to tributes shows, our favorite legends take to the stage and perform once again. On Sunday, March 8, Diamond Horseshoe Productions of Las Vegas, returns for their sixth engagement at the Eisemann Center in Richardson, to present one of their finest shows yet,“Direct from Las Vegas, the Rat Pack.” The cast members are three of Las Vegas’ most in-demand entertainers, Andy DiMino, Lambus Dean and Robbie Howard. They’ve logged thousands of performances in the top, most successful tribute shows, held years long Las Vegas strip residencies and played venues across the nation and worldwide.


Andy DiMino bears a remarkable resemblance and is a natural when it comes to portraying Dean Martin. As a child, DiMino watched the “Dean Martin Variety Show” weekly. Today, his credits are extensive with thousands of performances and appearances as Dean Martin, including a comedy sketch with Jay Leno on the “Tonight Show.”


His love of music and a flair for singing and comedic stage performance, DiMino brings “Ol’ Red Eyes” to life in a way that would make Frank jealous.


The San Francisco Chronicle pens, “Andy DiMino is a brilliantly conceived, uncanny, total embodiment of Martin.”


Sammy Davis Jr. springs to life through Lambus Dean. Growing up as one of eight boys and three girls, he knew he was destined to be part of an exciting group and has found a second family among the tribute stars of Las Vegas.


In 2001 he began performing as the legendary Sammy Davis Jr. and played Las Vegas show rooms at the Riviera, Tropicana and Westward Ho. He’s enjoyed portraying Sammy in numerous Rat Pack, as well as other popular tribute shows in the U.S. and abroad. 


Capturing the essence of Frank Sinatra, Robbie Howard stands apart from a look-a-like or sound-a-like entertainer. He works the audience with the same charisma as “Old Blue Eyes” himself. The music, the comedy, the wit, the smile, are all there as Howard smoothly brings Sinatra back to life.


A Las Vegas headliner in sold-out shows for more than ten years, Robbie offers a refreshing take beyond the lights and flash of entertainment fads. The New York Times says, “Frank Sinatra is coolly, confidently embodied by Robbie Howard, whose musical intonations and phrasing nicely evokes ‘Old Blue Eyes.’”


“Direct From Las Vegas, the Rat Pack” celebrates the iconic songs and banter along with the spontaneity that made the Rat Pack legendary.
Owned and operated by husband and wife team, Debra and Kevin Barber, Diamond Horseshoe Productions presents the best of Las Vegas entertainment all across the country.


“We adore Richardson.” Says Debra Barber. “From the amazing audiences, to the musicians, vendors and the entire Eisemann staff, it is a joy to be here.”


“We bring the professional shows we love and what we believe the Eisemann Center patrons, volunteers and staff will love too." Kevin says. "We strive to stand apart by bringing a show that will captivate an audience and exceed expectations."


Asked about “Direct from Las Vegas, the Rat Pack” show, Kevin smiles, “I’ve seen the show a lot and love it just as much every single time.” 
The Sands Copa Room of the 1960s may be long gone, but fortunately, fans and newcomers alike can find its spirit living and breathing on stages across the globe - and coming March 8, right here in Richardson, Texas.•

by Kevin Barber, February/March 2020

Rat Pack: A Time Before Rollercoasters and Volcanos

It began some 15 years ago when Dean McCurry accepted the request to conduct the calling at his kiddo’s school bingo game. After receiving thumbs up for the effort from a number of attendees, he was asked to be the auctioneer at the school’s auction. No experience brought to the table. No real idea as to exactly what to do. But his enthusiasm and “give it a shot” approach led him to take on the responsibility. The event went extremely well and resulted in the raising of $30,000 from $5,000 a year before.


Such was the first “side thing” part-time/weekend auction calling endeavor that over subsequent years evolved into DM Auction Services. McCurry retired from his Director of Sales position with Western Digital in 2009 and decided to pursue the interest full-time. The Castle Hills company since its’ inception has been exclusively involved in fundraising auctions for organizations supporting needs for schools, churches, senior citizens, military veterans, and other non-profit causes. Included in this number was Celebration’s 2018 Halloween Cake Auction which raised money for veterans and their families. Dean is  not engaged in cattle or car auctions but focused entirely on benefit auctions.


DM Auctions Services employs 25-30 part-time Auctioneers, Support Staff, Raffle Professionals and 3rd Party vendors (memorabilia-entertainment-event planners-etc.) Various charities over the nine years of operation have taken in approximately 45 million dollars. McCurry estimates they take the lead on between 75-100 fundraising auctions a year, almost solely within the state of Texas. 


The primary organizer of the efforts is married and the father of three children. His spouse, Gail, works within the group and is a vital part of the talent collection. McCurry is a full-fledged Licensed Auctioneer (#16260) and has taken the courses necessary to become skilled in his work. As indicated by a service organization Special Projects Director with whom DM Auction Services rendered its’ services, McCurry is able to motivate the crowd and is “beyond dynamic” when conducting live auctions. 


During my interview with him, it became apparent that McCurry is in the midst of a rewarding season of life; one in which he can exercise his desire to “be a difference in the lives of people.” He indicates, “If I can help others to create a better life for themselves and others, I find it to be a positive contribution to the world. It’s a feel-good job and I’m comfortable in doing it.” For the older segment of the population so often found to be searching for continued relevance, McCurry suggests a “get involved” and “supportive” approach to life. “Seniors have been there and done it,” he states. "Seniors can easily get involved with charitable organizations as so many worthwhile causes need support."

 
Dean is very personable and maintains a make things happen approach regarding the efficiency of his company. He is intent on providing well beyond the norm service to non-profits and causes which serve those in need. During our question and answer session, McCurry provided several seconds of his bid-calling chanting voice. He’s really good. It’s a developed proficiency that is rarely used to the fullest extent during events. The key element in bid-calling for benefit auctions is a easy to understand auctioneer’s chant, not necessarily speed.
McCurry views his father as an inspirational figure in his life and the primary influence towards being of assistance to others. Lonnie Dean “Primo” McCurry died at the age of 90 in 2010. “Primo” was an All-American football player at Texas Tech University. He was additionally a Marine and fought against the Axis Powers in Iwo Jima-Guadalcanal-Bougainville and Guam!


DM Auction Services prides itself on providing full- service attention to all elements of a fundraiser. McCurry makes it a point to meet with the key people involved before proceeding. Desired is a complete understanding of the needs of the non-profit group. Combined with experienced auctioneers and support staff is top-notch bidding technology. The company offers trips, concerts, music, celebrity appearances, memorabilia, and even a colorblind Christian speed painter as add-ons during the festivities. These are the elements that define DM Auction Services and make them a sound choice for non-profit auctions. 


“I think human beings have an innate desire to help each other. And whether you’re in medicine or anything else, if you see someone that you can help. . . you get a gratification from doing it. In fact, I think that is perhaps the most important fabric that holds the society together.” -Dr. Michael E. DeBakey •

by Dave Friant, December 2019/January 2020

Let’s “Start the Bidding” for Worthwhile Causes

It’s the Friday Night Dance Party! Tinker with that occasionally uncooperative internet connection and harken back to the melodious magic of yesteryear at WYNR1390.com. Since January 2018, the musical excursion into memorable songs of the 50’s and 60’s has been available via the livestream route from 7-11 pm. Not inclined to cut a rug in response to the tunes? No problem. However, the sounds will most likely result in at least foot-tapping displays of interest. Recalled will be the times when a unique variety of happiness aroused by listening to those special vinyl 45’s ruled your world. 


The principal director of the effort is 71-year-old John Colwell, aka Doctor John, who assembles songs for play on his sophisticated home studio equipment. Regina Colwell, aka Ms. Gina and Doc’s spouse of 44 years, makes the phone connection (214-227-1777 or 1-833-227-1777) or initiates the response to e-mail requests at INFO@WYNR1390.com. with those desiring to hear their favorite oldie. On any given Friday night, an average of 105 call-in requests are brought their way. The two additionally provide “Did You Know” specialty programs on selected Saturday nights involving a more detailed look at performers and their music. The Dance Party show is taken “on the road” to senior living facilities and other similar locations six times a year.  


Doctor John’s desire to have his own home studio to fulfill his passion for “DJ’ing” took significant strides in 2012. Anticipated was a significant sector of the population who enjoyed music from several decades ago. These might be the folks who would become active listeners and call-in requesters of their favorite songs. The melodies would hopefully serve to reacquaint them with smile-inducing moments of the past. Furthermore, hits from the 50’s and 60’s were not subject to copyright and performance restrictions.  


Doctor John is very aware of the crucial role his spouse plays in the orderly precision of the engagement. With his much-acclaimed voice of clarity and enthusiasm, he is quick to point out that “although I may be the head, the heart of the operation and station is Ms. Gina.” 
The impact of 74-year-old Ms. Gina in their musical pursuits is invaluable. She establishes more than simply an other-end-of-the-line joyful reply from request line callers. Developed are on-going relationships with Dance Party followers which serve as an aid in other matters of life beyond the expansion of further listenership around the metroplex. 


Hers over the years have been professional experiences in both stage and art direction, as well as labors as a paralegal and other judicial work for a law firm. She continues to be the principal force in maintaining the logistics of the Dance Party presentations. 


His was an interest in becoming a broadcasting-related professional going back to his early childhood. Colwell had a makeshift radio station within the confines of his parent’s home as a youngster. Gathering applicable experience for his future endeavors, this master of the mic served up sounds for listeners in Corsicana while a DJ in high school. He earned both a Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts degree from SMU, and a Ph.D in Motion Picture Production Management from LaSalle University.


Over several decades, Colwell established himself within the entertainment industry with an impressive array of both film and television production management and direction experiences. He retired from those lines of work in 1999. His resume also includes close to 40 years of law enforcement-related professional undertakings; serving the metroplex thru 2015 in various on-the-street officer and deputy roles as well as firearm training and instruction duties. 


The Doctor and Ms. Gina view themselves as “fulfilling a need,” and establishing with the show a connection with the audience. “The listeners are the program directors. They want to hear something that is relevant. At this point in their lives, they may feel abandoned and no longer worthy. We look for common interests that define us all,” says Ms. Gina. 


Both are long-term cancer survivors. Their approach to life is positive and upbeat. The Doctor indicates, “The 50’s and 60’s were transitional times. A period in the lives of many related to a lot of significant happenings in the world. Music had a lot of impact in their lives. What it means is special.”   


If you’ve yet to jump aboard, join the masses who enjoy the great tunes of times gone by. Allow the Doctor and Ms. Gina to provide the impetus. While our tracts of existence these days oftentimes keep us from remembering where we put those darn car keys, we do have the advantage of bringing to mind specific details of long-term memories. Be it those drive-in movie submarine races with Betty Sue or cruising the main drag of our hometown in that fire engine red ’64 Chevelle SS, we CAN with remarkable precision recapture those moments. •

by Dave Friant, October/November 2019

Reinventing the Radio Disc Jockey....Online!

It’s that time again, friends. The Spectacular Follies descend unto the Eismann Center this September! Let’s meet a couple of its shining stars, shall we?


Peggy Chandler is from Raymondville, in the Rio Grande Valley, and moved to Dallas after attending Stephen F. Austin University. Jeri Edwards is from Oklahoma City, but was born in San Antonio and got back to Texas as soon as she could. According to Edwards, the pair share an unbreakable bond of sisterhood. We chatted with the two to learn more!

CELEBRATION MAGAZINE: What are your performance backgrounds?
JERI EDWARDS: At the age of four I started taking dance lessons. In 2000 I joined The Dallas Tap Dazzlers and became a member of an elite group of women that I was honored to perform with throughout Texas and the United States for eighteen years. We had the privilege of being in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, as well as performing for the Senior America pageant in Atlantic City. 


PEGGY CHANDLER: While in Raymondville my mom had a studio called The Patty Dickerson School of Dance.  We performed all over the Rio Grande Valley and were regulars on The Moulton “Ty" Cobb Show.  Fast forward to 2002 when I joined the Class Act Tap Company, a service tap organization. I also have had the privilege of performing several shows with a few fellow Follies cast members at Chandler’s Landing and GG Theatre.

CM: How did you get involved with the Spectacular Follies, and how long have you been participating?


PC: In 2009 another Class Act Tap member asked me to learn a duet and audition with her.  We were both chosen to be in the ensemble cast that year by Mark Carroll, co-founder of the Spectacular Follies and John de la Santos, choreographer, and as they say— the rest is history.   I have been in the dance ensemble every year since then.  I am also a member of the Groovy Ladies, which has performed as a specialty act since 2014.  This is so fun because our performances have been country, disco, 50’s and Broadway. Three of these years—2015, 2017, and 2018—Jeri and I have been selected as a specialty act. This has been a real treat for us because it has allowed us to be creative and showcase our singing and dancing together!


JE: As a member of The Dallas Tap Dazzlers, we were asked to perform in the first Follies production in 2008. For the second show in 2009 I auditioned for the dance ensemble and I’ve been a part of this fabulous organization now for eleven years. 

CM: What’s your favorite part about the Follies?: Your favorite memory?


PC: This goes without saying….it is the friendships. The friends I have made over the past ten years are a true blessing. Not only are we friends, we have become one big family!  We take care of each other, work together, learn to compromise and really just want the show to be the best for our audience.  In addition to the friendships I have made, I have to say I love seeing how the show comes together from start to finish each year! It is truly spectacular. 


JE: Well, there’s always the costumes, the scenery, the make-up, the lights! But, first and foremost, the amazing people I have had the opportunity to perform with and the family bond you build with them is at the true heart of why I’m here and keep coming back. No egos, No divas. Just the love of sharing the stage together with one goal, to bring joy and great entertainment to our audiences. But, I have to add. I will always be partial to that special moment when the curtain goes up and it’s SHOW TIME! Not only one of my favorite memories, but a dream come true, when I was selected to be a part of the ensemble performing One from the Broadway show A Chorus Line. To top that off the choreographer was our wonderful director who was in the original production on Broadway, Michael Serechhia! I’ll never forget the first time I did this. It was definitely “one singular sensation”!

CM: What do the Follies mean to you?


JE: For me the “FOLLIES” represents “Living life to the Fullest”. We have grown into a powerhouse of talent and continuous enthusiasm whose goal is giving our best to make others smile and take an entertaining journey with us for two hours. It means commitment and dedication to each other. Always striving to be better and continue to find the best in yourself as well as your other cast members. 


PC: The Follies means so much to me on many levels. First of all, it has given me the opportunity to perform at this stage of my life. This was something that I never expected, but now can’t imagine my life without the Follies in it. Most of all, the Follies means working with a Dream Team!   This team pulls out the best in each of us:  the award-winning Michael Serrecchia, Director & Choreographer (and Megan Bates his assistant), the incredibly talented Dee Anne Meece, Artistic Director and Andy Michlin, Musical Director.

CM: What advice do you have for our readers about remaining an active and fabulous senior?


 PC: Don’t wait!  Just start doing something in your senior years now and use all the abilities you have to offer….no matter what your age. And remember, whatever you do, you are inspiring all generations.  


JE: Stay passionate about something! Passion creates energy and energy is life! Find that special thing you enjoy and go for it. It’s never too late. Keep moving! Motion is Life!


Celebration Magazine thanks Peggy and Jeri for their time, and encourages you to catch The Spectacular Follies this September!

by Shanon Weaver, August/September 2019

Spectacular Follies, Spectacular Ladies

Retired United States Marine Corps Fighter Pilot Colonel Joe McPhail has a long title, and an even longer list of accomplishments. To begin with, though, he tells me just “Joe” is fine.


“I was born in the little ol’ town of Grand Saline, Texas,” Joe begins. “It’s on highway 80 between Dallas and Shreveport.”
Joe left Grand Saline in 1937, following his father to Tyler, TX. His father worked for the Railroad Commission. He graduated from High School in Tyler, and then the family moved to Corpus Christi. There, Joe graduated from Junior College in 1941. His love of flying would take off from there.


“I enrolled in a civilian pilot training program in 1941, flying Piper Cubs. That’s how I really got hooked on flying. I wanted to continue flying, and knew the only way I could was to join the military.”


Joe joined the Marines, and in 1943 did his first tour in the Pacific Theater of World War II. That January, he joined up with a Wildcat Squadron in American Samoa. He was there for 14 months, but says he really didn’t do much. “We really just occupied islands to keep the Japanese from occupying them,” Joe remembers.


The action heated up during his second tour, when he flew with VMF 323—a fighter squadron known as The Death Rattlers. He joined up with them in February 1945, and was deployed to Okinawa, Japan.


“All the old guys, they had already been overseas about six months when I joined them, “Joe recalls. They were training in New Hebrides, about 500 miles west of Guadalcanal. The group I was with, an augmented squadron, joined up with them and we ended up with 51 officers. The old guys got to fly their airplanes; I had to ride an LST [military carrier, Landing Ship: Tank] from New Hebrides to Okinawa. It took 38 days. Heck of a way for an aviator to ride to the war.”


According to Wikipedia, the Death Rattlers racked up 124 Japanese planes shot down between April of 1945 and the Japanese surrender, without losing a single pilot. Joe remembers it a touch differently. “We lost some guys. I don’t think we lost ‘em to combat; some of ‘em just didn’t ever come back, we don’t know what happened to ‘em.”


After WWII, Joe went back to school and got his degree from Southern Methodist University in 1948, and went to work for a company in Tyler. He was part of a Reserve Squadron in Dallas though, and on August 1st 1950, he was called back into service for the Korean War. Things were a little different there, as he and the rest of Black Sheep Squadron mostly provided close-air support for troops on the ground. “They’d tell us where the bombing line was, and anything north of that was fair game,” Joe says. “We’d look for military targets, of course.”
Joe flew 240 missions, 102 of which were in Korea. Among his many commendations, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross twice—once in each conflict. His strongest memory, though, was among his first.


“Seeing my first Japanese airplane on the 12th of April, 1945,” Joe says when asked about his greatest memory. “I shot down a Zero that day. It was pretty impressive. I trained for three years, and had never seen one, and then all of a sudden there were 4 of them in front of me. I started firing, and pieces started coming off of it, and it blew up. The other three took off.”


“I tell people I’m a generic ‘Ace,’” Joe jokes. “I wrecked three American airplanes and shot down two Japanese airplanes. That’s my five. You gotta have five.”


Joe last flew in 1990, and isn’t keen to go up again. “I miss it, I really do,” He says. “But I wouldn’t trust myself now. I’ll be 98 in October. I feel blessed though, I really do. I’ve done a lot and my health is good.”


All of us at Celebration would like to thank Colonel McPhail for his distinguished service, and wish him a happy early birthday!

by Shanon Weaver, June/July 2019

Dogfighting from WWII to Korea Meet: Colonel Joe McPhail

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