A treasured piece of Portland’s history was lost last week with the June 1 passing of Earnest Elsworth Suttle, Jr., better know as Junior.
Suttle, 98, was among the few surviving World War II veterans in the area. He was born on March 12, 1923, to the late Earnie Suttle, Jr., and Idell Suttle.
The life-long Portland resident was drafted in 1943 and served as an artilleryman in the 106th Infantry Division, seeing action in France, Belgium and Germany. He also trained in Tennessee prior to heading to the European theater.
During his war service, Suttle fought in the Battle of the Bulge, the last major offensive by the Germans during WWII. In a 2017 interview with the website williamsonhomepage.com, Suttle spoke about the difficult times he and his fellow soldiers faced.
“On Dec. 16 in the year 1944 at about 5:30 in the morning, the Germans made an offensive push unbeknownst to us,” Suttle said. “We lose two complete infantry regiments, and two battalions of our artillery lost their colors. They wiped them out completely. They were killed, wounded or prisoners of war.”
During the battle, Suttle also came across his brother, Melvin, who was serving with a different division.
After the war ended, Suttle guarded German prisoners of war at a camp before returning home and being discharged in December of 1945. He rejoined his wife, Mildred, and his son Ronnie, who was born while his father was overseas. The Suttles would later add three daughters to their family.
Suttle would go to work at DuPont in Old Hickory, and three years later, he joined Portland’s Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, where he worked for 10 years. After leaving there, he operated a service station in Portland for almost 20 years. He would then spend 32 years raising beef cattle on the farm that he loved.
Portland resident Ronnie Monday, a Vietnam veteran himself and a friend of Suttle’s, spoke on the WWII veteran’s love of country and expressed appreciation for his service.
“He remembered things back in the 30s, such as the girls basketball winning district in 1936,” Monday said. “He told me all about that.
“He was a historian and could tell you anything you wanted to know about Portland. Everything around Junior was a love of America. He was a great veteran and patriot and he loved his country.”
In 2005, Suttle traveled with his youngest daughter to Washington, D.C., to visit the World War II memorial. It was reportedly Suttle’s first ride on an airplane.
A 2014 video interview with Mr. Suttle has been posted on the city of Portland’s Facebook page. Suttle also participated in the Strawberry Festival’s parade last month.
“His daughter had him in one of those buggies, and he pulled up in front of our veterans’ float and asked, ‘Boys, you mind if I ride in front of you,’ ... of course, we didn’t,” Monday said. “People would come out and shake his hand, tell him how much they appreciated him.”
In addition to his son, Ronnie, Suttle is survived by: his three daughters, Kathy Suttle, Patsy Suttle, Tammy (Ray) Whitaker; five grandchildren; 11 great-grandchildren; a brother, Jack Suttle; and two sisters, Imodean Summers and Betty Bates.
His funeral service was held last Saturday at Halltown General Baptist Church, and interment was held in the Old Brush Cemetery with military honors.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Wounded Warrior Project or the Journey Home Project.
Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or firstname.lastname@example.org.