“It is a high honor to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery,” says Cheryl Purcell, a friend of HSU graduate, Commander Al Stell. Purcell, assistant vice president for development at Hardin-Simmons University, was in Washington D.C. yesterday for the funeral service of the 1944 graduate and WWII hero.
Albert Lafayette Stell, Jr., died April 18, 2012. Purcell says since he was to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, there is a waiting list for the ceremony to be performed.
Stell was born in Houston, TX, on November 19, 1923, to Albert and Susie Brunson Stell. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1942, graduating from Hardin Simmons in 1944. He was commissioned as an ensign in 1945.
Stell served on USS Saratoga and USS Shangri-La as a night fighter director during carrier task force actions against Japan. Stell participated in the surrender of Japan to U.S. forces, serving on a number of ships during and upon the conclusion of WWII.
Among his many duties in the military, Stell served on USS Antietam as CIC officer, USS Braine as gunnery officer, USS Formoe as executive officer, USS James M. Gillis as commanding officer, USS Lowry as executive officer, and USS Springfield as weapons officer.
He also served in the Defense Atomic Support Agency, U.S. European Command, Paris, France; and the Defense Nuclear Agency, Arlington, Virginia; before retiring with a rank of commander in 1972. Upon rejoining the Defense Nuclear Agency, Stell directed defense programs and retired as comptroller in 1989.
Al, and wife, Laura, settled in McGahyesville, Virginia, before moving to Brandermill Woods, Virginia, in 1999. Al's military awards and medals include the Legion of Merit and the Joint Service Commendation Medal w/oak leaf cluster.
Purcell describes the event at Arlington National Cemetery as “beyond description,” saying, “The service was very meaningful. The casket was loaded onto a caisson and pulled by horses. There was a band, honor guard, a 21 gun salute…full military honors. For me, this was an event of the highest honor and I was honored to attend.”
HSU alums LaVonne Boyer and Glenn Bratcher, a member of the Board of Trustees, also attended the service.
The Stells established two endowed memorial scholarships at HSU, one in memory of Mr. Stell’s parents and another in honor of Mrs. Stell’s parents, both in 1996.
Al is survived by Laura, his wife of 65 years; his sons, Douglas (Judy), Steven (Susan Alexander) and Jefferey (Gail); grandchildren, Bryan Stell, Scott (Katie) Stell, Nicol Ridout, Kevin, Lauren, and 2nd Lt. Eric Stell; and a great grandson, Cooper Stell.
An earlier memorial service at the Brandermill Woods Chapel was held on Sunday, April 22, at 3 p.m.