Dr. Larry Elton Fletcher, age 77, died at his home in Lake Ozark, MO, on December 13, 2020.
Larry was born in Moniteau County, Missouri, in a farmhouse on August 15, 1943, to Hazel Lee (Hodler) Fletcher and Robert Elton Fletcher, a World War II, U.S. Army combat veteran. Both his parents preceded him in death.
Dr. Fletcher grew up in California, MO, and graduated in 1961 from California High School. An avid lover of sports, he had the honor of being the first-ever quarterback for the California Pintos football team. Following graduation from high school, he attended Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University or MSU) where he continued to play both football and basketball. Dr. Fletcher graduated from Southwest Missouri State University with a B.S. in Education in 1965. He then immediately enrolled at the University of Missouri in Columbia, was a graduate assistant for Norm Stewart, and obtained a Master of Education degree in 1966.
After teaching and coaching for two years, Dr. Fletcher joined the U.S. Air Force and received his officer commission and second lieutenant bar in September 1968. He flew 177 combat missions as a pilot in AC-119 Shadow gunships during his tour of duty in Vietnam from May 1970 to May 1971. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster and the Air Medal with eight clusters for missions flown in Southeast Asia. He was additionally nominated for Pacific Air Forces Outstanding Junior Officer of the Year. Upon completion of his Vietnam tour of duty in May 1971, Dr. Fletcher returned to the states, was promoted to captain, and accepted a commission in the Regular Air Force.
Dr. Fletcher was honorably discharged in 1973 and assigned to the USAF Ready Reserve. Decorations and awards earned by Dr. Fletcher in addition to the two DFCs and nine Air Medals include the AF Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, AF Outstanding Unit Award with Oak Leaf cluster, AF Longevity Service Award, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal w/BSS, and Small Arms Expert Marksman.
After leaving active duty, Dr. Fletcher immediately returned to teaching and coaching in St. Charles, Missouri, for two years before entering school administration as principal at High Point R-III School District for four years. It was during this time, in 1977, Larry married the love of his life Linda Sue (Knight) Fletcher. Together they raised a blended family of three daughters.
He was then employed for twelve years 1979-1991 by California R-1 School District, MO; first as an elementary school principal and then as district superintendent of schools. His last six years in public school administration were at Camdenton R-3 School District, MO. Utilizing the GI Bill to further his education, Fletcher earned the Educational Specialist degree in 1981 and the Doctor of Education degree in 1984, both degrees from the University of Missouri - Columbia. Dr. Larry Elton Fletcher retired from public school teaching and administration in 1997 to devote full time to writing, which initially began with the 1984 publishing of Moniteau County Schools History 1810-1984. The history book is a derivative of Fletcher’s doctoral dissertation at the University of Missouri - Columbia. Dr. Fletcher published three novels about AC-119 gunship combat and crews in the Vietnam War. Shadows of Saigon - Air Commandos in Southeast Asia was published in 2001, its sequel The Shadow Spirit - Flying Stingers and BUFFs in S.E.A. was published in 2004, and Charlie Chasers was published in 2013. In addition to his novels, Dr. Fletcher wrote several articles documenting his time in the Vietnam war, which were featured in various journals and magazines.
A proud member of the AC-119 Gunship Association for over 20 years, Dr. Fletcher served five terms as President and spearheaded the AC-119 Gunships History Book 1968-1973 for the AC-119 Gunship Association, which was published by the Association in 2009. Additional organizations for which he was a lifetime member include the Air Commando Association, Missouri State University Alumni Association, Missouri University Alumni Association, Moniteau County Historical Society, Sigma Phi Epsilon, and the Veterans of Foreign War (V.F.W.). Dr. Fletcher was a member of the Harper Chapel United Methodist Church in Osage Beach, MO.
Dr. Fletcher is survived by his wife Sue of Lake Ozark, MO; three daughters, Tracy Upschulte and husband Kevin of Jefferson City, MO, Laura Mullins and husband Bill of Kansas City, MO, Tricia Brewer and husband Mike of Holt Summit, MO; one sister, Patty Papen and husband David of High Point, MO; 2 nieces, Julie Berendzen and husband Brad of California, MO, Becky Hart and husband Scott of Eugene, MO; 10 grandchildren, Kael and Carson Upschulte, Katlyn and Jakob Mullins, Marlayna and Maitlyn Harwood, Mackenzie Shaw, Elisabeth Wang, Tom and Nick Brewer.
A visitation will be held on Thursday, December 17, from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Windmill Ridge Funeral Service, California, MO. Funeral Services will be held for immediate family at Harper Chapel United Methodist Church in Osage Beach. A link to a recording of the service will be posted by the funeral home on Dr. Fletcher’s obituary page for those who wish to view. Interment at the California City Cemetery, with full military honors, is open to the public following the service at 1:00 p.m. with Reverend Jim Day officiating. In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested to the Harper Chapel United Methodist Church or the Dr. Larry E. Fletcher Memorial Scholarship for California R1 School District. Online messages to the family may be contributed at www.windmillridgefuneralservice.com.
Posted online on December 16, 2020