Crosby Warren Powell, retired Lieutenant Colonel, Kansas Army National Guard (1946-1976) and PFC Army rifleman, and a Purple Heart veteran of one of the longest battles in WWII, serving in both African and Italian campaigns, died on February 17, 2023 at the age of 99 in Georgetown, Texas where his daughter resides.
Funeral services will be held at Mount Hope Chapel, 4700 SW 17th Street on Wednesday, March 1, 2023 at 1:00 p.m. Viewing will be held at noon in the chapel before the service.
You are most welcome to join us at his farewell service whether you knew him well, casually or not at all and want to honor the life of one who served his country well at great sacrifice. A special invitation is extended to all those wounded warriors who also served our country in any conflict to protect our freedom.
To his friends, he was known by the nickname “Bing.” He lived in the family home until age 91 and was a long-time resident of Thornton Place. He was born on September 21, 1923, his father’s 36th birthday, in Topeka, Kansas to Olive Harriet (Mooney) Shafer and Clendenon Jason Powell, both of Halifax, Kansas.
His family has a long history of military service to our country dating back to 1675. On Powell’s maternal side, his 8th and 7th great-grandfathers, Henry Kinne and Thomas Kinne II served in King Phillip’s War (1675-1676.) Henry Kinne was a Puritan who came to America from Holland seeking religious freedom. Crosby’s 5th great-grandfather, Asa Kinne was a Captain in the Revolutionary War. His 4th great-grandfather, Hercules Mooney I, born in Ireland in 1710, came first to Canada as a stowaway and then to America in 1733. He served in the French and Indian War (1754-1763) and was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War (1775-1783.) He died at age 90 at his farm in New Hampshire. Powell’s great-grandfather, George Washington Shafer, was conscripted into the Civil War. His uncle, Henry Bausch and cousin, John Bausch who was also wounded in action and a purple heart recipient, served together in WWII in the 35th Army Division in France, Belgium and Germany.
On his paternal side, his cousin, Thomas Crosby Deacon, PFC Army served in WWI in France. Deacon was a member of the 312th Supply Company, Quartermaster’s Corps. He died during WWI in Chateauroux, France. Powell’s brother, Merton, also served in WWII in the U.S. Navy V-5 Pilot program. His three half-brothers served in WWII in North Africa, the Philippines under MacArthur, guarding Hirohito and state-side.
This family legacy of military service directly impacted Crosby, including what he was named. At birth, Powell’s given name was Russell Warren Powell. He was renamed at the age of 3 in honor of his cousin, Thomas Crosby Deacon, who had died during WWI. A plaque of Topeka High School (THS) graduates who died in WWI still stands on THS grounds and includes Deacon’s name.
At the age of two, Crosby’s father chose to leave the family, a mere four years before the Great Depression. As a child, finances were meager but he was surrounded by the deep, fierce love of his mother and brother born in 1924. His mother, who had a 5th grade education, kept the family together by sheer determination and never-ending hard work. She faithfully reared her sons in the Methodist Church and later watched both sons leave home to serve in WWII. Fortunately, both returned.
“Bing” Crosby was a graduate of Topeka High School, a school his father-in-law Roy Tyler helped build.
When World War II broke out, Crosby wanted to enlist in the 35th Army Division joining his uncle, Henry Bausch and his uncle’s son, John Bausch. But, his mother would not sign the papers. Later, in April 1943, he was drafted into the Army’s 34th “Red Bull” Division, 168th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Battalion, Company L. He served in Italy, most notably during the four-month Battle of Monte Casino. The battle was fought during one of the harshest winters in Italy and resulted in over 55,000 Allied casualties. Crosby was wounded in his back and leg, and also suffered from severe trench feet at Monte Cassino. He was sent to North Africa to recover from his injuries. After three months of treatment, which included relearning how to walk, Crosby thought he would be sent home. Instead, he was sent back to the battle front at Anzio, Italy. His shrapnel injuries caused painful side effects for the remainder of his life.
Crosby was honorably discharged and awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, the French Croix de Guerre and other medals for his service.
In June 1946, he married his high school sweetheart and love of his life, Ruth Geraldine Tyler. He adored his wife and the two established a wonderfully happy home built on the principles of hard work, faith in God, respect for and service to others, responsibility and frugality.
Crosby and Ruth welcomed their first and only child in 1948. Ruth was convinced during pregnancy she would give birth to a Crosby Jr., however when a little girl arrived, the couple adjusted their plans to name the baby after Crosby and created the name Crosleen.
Over the years, Crosby created many memories with his family including regular budgeting nights (a practice that would influence his daughter’s future career), playing and watching plenty of sports, as well as years of weekly attendance and service in church.
Most of his career was spent with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad where he worked as a supervisor in the freight department.
Crosby was a natural born, passionate athlete and avid tennis player, but baseball was his favorite sport to play. He was the pitcher on fast-pitch softball teams for both his church and work until he was 60 years old. Later in life, his daughter had his DNA mapped and it was no surprise that the results indicated his DNA included the muscle composition common in elite power athletes.
For almost 50 years, he was a part-time Washburn University Athletic department employee. In 1969, he began taking tickets at sport events. Later, he staffed and managed the gates for football, basketball and girls’ volleyball events. He did so until he was in his early nineties. Crosby also worked the Topeka High football games and took tickets at Civic Auditorium events for many years.
On December 18, 1984, he and his wife were in a car accident that claimed the life of his wife and severely injured him. This experience, while heartbreaking, deepened his faith in God and the promise of seeing his wife again someday.
Long before this tragic event, faith played a prominent role in Powell’s heritage and his life. Crosby’s 2nd paternal (Congregational) and maternal (Methodist) great-grandfathers were ministers. Additionally, his paternal great-uncle and both of his paternal great-grandfathers were ministers, one being a well-known Welsh Congregational minister and missionary to Ohio.
In Crosby’s own life, he served at First Assembly of God for over five decades first as an usher and later as head usher. In his later years, he attended Wanamaker Woods Church of the Nazarene. Crosby was also a devoted student of scripture and read five chapters from the Bible every single day.
His lifelong passion for military service extended beyond his years of active duty in the United States Army and the Kansas National Guard. In 2013, he participated in the Kansas Honor Flight program and called it a “fabulous, wonderful experience of a lifetime.” It was at this time that Powell met Marty Feltner, the Veterans Coordinator for Lyndon High School (LHS) Honor Flight. Kansas is distinguished as the only state that utilizes high school students as Flight Guardians and LHS was the first to have high school Flight Guardians in Kansas, providing an opportunity for younger generations to understand the sacrifice veterans have made to protect our freedom by participating in honoring those who have served our country.
In 2019, he was also the Shawnee County recipient of the Quilt of Valor.
Several years ago, Kurt Caywood of the Topeka Capital Journal, wrote an article about Powell’s life and legacy, expressing well the essence of his life:
“What’s overwhelming is his body of work. What’s striking is the sum of his accomplishments, the strength of his resolve and his dedication to a life well-lived. Tom Brokaw calls this ‘a generation of towering achievement and modest demeanor,’ and Bing Powell’s story is one of dignified and reliable service. His rendezvous with destiny stands as an example to us all.”
Whatever he did, he gave it his best effort and strived to do so with excellence. Crosby didn’t let his misfortunes find a home, instead he found his anchor in the Cross of his Lord. He had a most resilient heart. His life experiences gifted him with a sensitivity to the frailty of others, expecting more of himself than others. By his example, he taught that we can decide to be happy, make much out of little and embrace the warmth of our ordinary days.
Crosby was preceded in death by his wife, mother, father, younger brother, four half-siblings and son in-law, Joe Terry Rye. Survivors include Crosleen Powell-Rye, daughter, nephews and their families: Todd Powell (Karen), Doug Powell (Carolyn) and Robert Powell (Sue). He is also survived by his nieces and their families: Beverly Powell, Nora Mae Masters and Shirley Woodyard (Keith) and by his sister-in-law Phyllis Powell.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Wounded Warrior Project PO Box 758517, Topeka, Kansas 66675-8517.
Crosby's service will be livestreamed at the scheduled service time. Click Here
to view the service.