John R. Stallings, Sr., 776th
29 November 1997
John Robert Stallings, Sr., died at his residence on Sat., Nov. 29, 1997. John
was born on Feb. 2, 1919. He was 78 years old. He was the son of the late Leslie Hecht and Emilia
John was a native of Isle of Wight County and retired as superintendent from
Smithfield Packing Company after 36 years of service. John was elected fire chief by the Smithfield
Volunteer Fire Department in 1976.
He was a career employee of Smithfield Packing Company where he worked
for almost four decades. John retired in 1981 as a fresh-meat division manager.
He was named the Rotary-Rutarian Club Man of the Year in 1988. John
was also a member of the Trinity United Methodist Church; the Wesley Men's Bible Class; American
Legion, George F. Dashiell Post No. 49 and the Masons.
John was a decorated WWII veteran. He was the first resident of Isle of Wight
County to be drafted into the Army. He was sent to South Carolina for training, then to Louisiana. While
there, John volunteered to serve in the Army Air Force. He was sent to San Antonio, Cuero, Waco and Fort Worth,
Idaho, Nebraska and then crossed the Atlantic in "his" ship, "The Little Lulu."
John's crew on the "Little Lulu" included: Co-pilot, 1st Lt. Dwight D.
Baker; Navigator, 1st Lt. William J. Pawlowski; Bombardier, 1st. Lt. Delbert L. Hicok; Engineer,
T/Sgt. Garland D. Meyer; Radio Operator, T/Sgt. Carl E. Will; Assistant Engineer, S/Sgt. Nicholas J.
Ferrera; Gunner, T/Sgt. Albert A. Warren; Gunner, S/Sgt. Wesley H. Warner and Gunner, S/Sgt.
Salvatore J. De Nicola. John's WWII journal entries led his family to believe that all of the crew
survived the war.
During his service he piloted many B-24s - including "Free Delivery,"
"Pistol Packin' Mama," "Sleepy Time Gal," "Lucky Strike," "Little Joe,"
"All Meat - No Potatoes," "The Flak-Man," and "Big Fat Mama." His
first flight was on 5 May 1944, his last flight (just before "Little Lulu" crashed) was on 21 Aug. 1944.
John flew two complete rotations of bombing missions over Europe, more than
most pilots. The 50 missions he completed earned him a citation for valor. He was also awarded
the Purple Heart when he was injured by flak; the Air Medal and the first, second and third Oak Leaf
Clusters. John was also a member of the "Half Hundred Club."
When he returned home to Smithfield after the war, he was eager to do something
more than earn a paycheck, and he applied for membership in the Smithfield Volunteer Fire Department.
Chief Stallings, as he was affectionately known even in retirement by members of the fire department
and the community, donated most of his spare time to serving others. He steered the organization for
12 years before being forced to retire because of failing health.
In an interview at the time of his retirement as fire chief in 1988, Chief Stallings
recalled that at the end of WWII, the Smithfield department had more volunteers than it needed. As a
result, there was a waiting list - he applied three times before being accepted as a member in 1948.
At the time of his death, John had served 49 years in the department. During that time, he performed
whatever role the fire department had for him. John's leadership was so exemplary that those serving
under him simply wanted to "please the chief."
John is survived by his wife, Sara E. Stallings, two sons, Michael R. Stallings
and John R. Stallings, Jr., both of Smithfield; one sister, Rita S. Savage, of Williamsburg; six grandchildren,
Andrea S. Clontz, Jason Stallings, Michael Stallings, Jr., Rob Stallings, Sherri E. Woodyard and
Cynthia S. Edwards and several great-grandchildren.
Known for his quiet, affable personality, John commanded the respect of much
younger men and women in the fire service both in Smithfield and beyond. Representatives of a number
of fire departments, including most of those located in Isle of Wight County, joined in paying tribute
to him at his funeral. Fire and rescue apparatus led the funeral procession from Colonial Funeral
Home to St. Luke's Memorial Park.
On Dec. 1, 1997 his casket, accompanied by fire fighters, was carried aboard the
Smithfield Department's 1938 antique fire truck, which John had frequently operated as a young
engineer many years ago.
The procession entered the cemetery under an arch formed by aerial trucks from
Smithfield and Carrollton. Firefighters manned each intersection the procession passed, displaying
a set of fire turnout gear stacked neatly, a traditional tribute to a fallen member of the fire service.