In Memory

Lee Allen

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09/04/16 07:12 PM #1    

Craig G. Colter

I gave a talk at Lee's funeral on 22 Jan 16.   This is what I said: 

My comments will present a piece of the mosaic that represents Lee’s life- I bring one of the friendship pieces, and I think I am qualified- Lee has been my closest and most important friend for over 60 years.

I would like to tell a little story that to me says some things about the kind of person Lee was: 

In the spring of 1969 I was at Briarcliff Manor, NY dropping off my family at my in-laws' house on my way to the war in Vietnam.  I borrowed my brother-in-law’s motorcycle and had an accident.  The closest military hospital was the one at West Point.  After an operation to rebuild my knee, by some remarkable coincidence, I wound up in exactly the same bed in the orthopedic ward that I had been in after breaking my ankle as a West Point cadet 11 years earlier.  After the operation I am lying there with a bad attitude and who should walk in but my old friend Lee Allen.  When he sees me, he bursts out laughing.  “What are you laughing at, Allen? ”  I say.  “Isn’t that the same bed you were in about 10 years ago when we were plebes and you broke your ankle?” says Lee. “Yeah, and I’m not happy about it, because the Air Force with lightning speed has cancelled my war-zone fighter assignment, and when I get up on crutches, I am headed to Wright-Patterson to be an engineer, and you know me, Lee, I am a fighter pilot, not an engineer.”  “Not to worry,” said Lee.  “We’ll just get you a teaching assignment in my department, and as soon as you are ship shape, you can go on to the war assignment.” I said “Are you the head of Air Force assignments, now?  Never happen.”  Lee said “Trust me, I’m off to talk to my boss about this.”  And it all happened just as Lee said - I taught Chinese geography to cadets for 5 months, then flew the Vietnam tour in F-105s.  Keep in mind we were not Colonels here, we were young Captains.  To this day I have no idea how Lee swung that deal, and when I asked, he just smiled and said, “it was easy.”  That was Lee:  doing for others and then making light of it.  And it wasn’t the first or last time he bailed me out.

I first met him in 1954 when I was a scared high school junior who had just come from the country in Arizona to the very big and sophisticated high school in Palo Alto, California.  Lee had compassion for me and took me under his wing (I was taller, so he had to reach), brought me into his circle of friends and smoothed the way at school for me.  A year later, this kindness was expanded - my mother became too sick to work, and Lee and his mom insisted we come live with them, so I spent my senior year of high school living with them and his little brother Hendy.  What could have been a bad time in my life turned out to be a good one, thanks to their love and generosity.  After graduation, both of us received an appointment to West Point, so we also spent the four years there as classmates.

It is nice to have friends, and it is especially nice to have a friend who you respect and admire because they are constant and true about all the right things.  In the course of all the years of our friendship, Lee and I joined up in a lot strange places in the world, and we shared a lot of miles and laughs and good times taking trips and spending time together- including tracing the Lewis and Clark expedition and visiting numerous civil war battle fields (Lee was an expert on both) in our later years.   A few things I can say about him that are absolutely, irrevocably true:

  • No matter what the situation, I knew that Lee wouldn’t choose what was best for Lee, he would choose what was right
  • I never knew him to tell a lie, not once in all those years
  • He was always absolutely reliable and dependable in all circumstances (don’t we all wish that these things could be said of us when we pass on?  I do, but am not optimistic)
  • Lee was always a leader:
    • I think he was elected president of every class he was in from grade school on
    • He was the student body president at Palo Alto high school
    • At West Point, Lee was so highly regarded by his peers and the leadership that he became one of the few cadet captain company commanders in our senior year.
    • In the army, he had important and demanding assignments, including two combat tours in Vietnam- I know he acquitted himself well, and I wish I knew more about those tours, but our combat experiences were just not something that Lee and I spent much time talking about- we had more important topics, like laughing at liberals and discussing our perfect grandchildren.
  • Lee always stood by his values and principles- when a Lt Colonel in pentagon, he tangled with a General who had a shortage of character over important matters of principle, and that hurt his career- it was the Army’s and the country’s loss because he would have made a great four-star General Officer.  But, he emerged with what was really import to Lee: his self-respect.
  • I have received many emails expressing respect from classmates who knew we were friends- he was highly regarded by all that knew him.

Lee and I have been swapping emails almost daily for about 20 years.  We have had an email contest for about the last 5 years to see who could tell the worst jokes –I’m sure Lee won that one.

I know he was happy to give his children what he was never able to have- a father who was able to be with them and love them throughout their childhood.  I can assure you that he loved each of them immensely.

I know that Lee was under no illusions about what was the finest and most important event in his life.  It was the day that Silja agreed to cross the Atlantic from Finland and join him in his life.  He was a very lucky man to have her by his side, and he was smart enough to know and appreciate that.

Lee, my friend. I hope that you are through in-processing for your new assignment, and that you and your son Tom and your Dad and Mom are reunited and having a great time together.  Know that here at this time in this place, all of your friends and your family miss you - a lot. And know that I was fortunate indeed to have a friend such as you.  and I really hope that you can swing another miracle for me when I report on the other side for my next assignment.  Goodbye for now, old friend. 








09/08/16 07:12 AM #2    

Peter Sanford

Hi Craig,

That was a great tribute to Lee Allen. Thanks for sharing it with us.  Peter Sanford

11/12/16 08:05 AM #3    

Ted Pollard

What a great summery of life and meaning of friendship amoung friends.  Ted


05/13/17 01:31 PM #4    


I had lived in rural Utah and I told him a dozen of hiked Mt.Nebo. I was probably 13.   Dad was at U of U and

we were with Henry Ering and hia 2 sons.   Utahs favorite scientist.   I spell as thought I was 13 still.

Ed McLachlan

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