BYRON – Lester Thompson Beitel died early Wednesday, May 22, 2013, at Neighbors Rehabilitation Center in Byron from complications of Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia and Alzheimer’s.
He was born April 15, 1920, on the Lee County side of Lee, the son of Lester Delos and Affa Naomi (Thompson) Beitel. It was his mother’s 31st birthday and his parents’ first wedding anniversary. He graduated from Shabbona High School in June 1938.
A proud veteran of World War II, he served as a staff sergeant in the Army Air Corps, 8th Air Force. Stationed in northern England with the Combat Crew Replacement Group, and later the 96th Bomb Wing, he was the personal driver for Brig. General Walter Peck. One time, he had the honor of having Jimmy Stewart as one of his passengers.
After his discharge from the Army, he began working for Illinois Northern Utilities (now Commonwealth Edison) where he worked for more than 36 years until his retirement in 1982. He also spent some of his early years as a photographer. He married Cheryl L. Wolf on Sept. 16, 1950, on her parents’ farm in Sheffield. They lived in Dixon until moving to Byron in 1970. She preceded him in death on March 18, 1977. Tommy later married longtime family friend Alice Thomson on Dec. 28, 1978. She preceded him in death on Oct. 5, 2005.
Tommy was a member of Byron Masonic Lodge 274 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, where he was a 32nd degree Mason. He served as secretary, treasurer, and past Master there, and secretary and past Master of Friendship Lodge 0007 in Dixon. He received his 60-year pin from the American Legion in 2010. He also was an active member of the United Church of Byron, where he at one time served as treasurer. He enjoyed listening to music, especially the big bands, and loved playing and watching the game of baseball. He was a devoted son, husband, father, and grandfather.
Tommy is survived by his two children, Greg (Sandra) Beitel and Marsha (Mike) Gyorkos of Byron; nine grandchildren, Chad Beitel, Eric Beitel, Kara (James Horner) Beitel, Kimberly Gyorkos, and Casey Meyer, all of Byron, Jeff Gyorkos of Rockford, Jessica (EJ Manteufel) Meyer of Milwaukee, Joshua Beitel of Rockford, and Jason Beitel of London; nine great-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.
He also was preceded in death by his brother, Milton J. Beitel of Casper, Wyo.
The family wishes to thank the caring staff at Neighbors Rehabilitation Center for the compassionate, loving and tender care that he received there the last 2 years. Also, special thanks to the Passages Hospice staff for all they did to assist him and his family.
Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at Farrell-Holland-Gale Funeral Home, 506 W. Merchant St., Byron. The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at United Church in Byron, with the Rev. Michael Mulberry, pastor, officiating. Burial will be at Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens in Dixon.
A memorial fund has been established to United Church of Byron.
Visit www.farrellhollandgale.com to send condolences.