Last WWI Vet Leaves Legacy Of Service In Oklahoma

Wednesday, March 2nd 2011, 6:14 pm
By: News 9

Darren Brown,

OAKWOOD, Oklahoma -- When America's last surviving World War I veteran died this week, he left a legacy of service not only to his country, but to an Oklahoma town as well.

Frank Woodruff Buckles died on February 28, just a few weeks after his 110th birthday.  He was born in Missouri, but moved to Oakwood, Oklahoma in 1916.

Buckles attended high school in Oakwood, and worked at the local bank. His employment at the bank is one of the favorite stories told about him these days in the area. The story goes that Buckles was tending to his cleanup duties at the bank and overheard two men plotting to break into the bank that night.  Buckles took the money from the vault himself and kept it in his room overnight, so when the two men broke in and blew the safe, there was no money to be found.

Frank Chain, whose family lived just down the road from the Buckles family, recalls how Buckles' swimming skills helped the community once. A man swimming in a local pond had drowned, apparently hung up on some underwater debris. No one dared to go into the murky water, especially at night, but Woodruff, as he was known, was a strong swimmer.

"They got people with cars and shined the lights," Chain said.  "He dove down and recovered the body."

Chain also remembers the time Buckles came through town delivering a sportscar to his daughter in California.

"He looked like he could drive a sportscar," laughed Chain. "And he was pretty old then!"

Frank Buckles began his military adventure in 1917, when he lied about his age and enlisted in the Army in Oklahoma City. The Dewey County land he once roamed is still owned by the Buckles family. Oakwood itself is much quieter, but the stories about America's last World War I veteran remain.