Jabus W. Rawls
Jabus W. Rawls
World War II veteran and former Sonoma resident Jabus ("Jay") W. Rawls, aged 96, died peacefully in Seattle on May 9, 2011, surrounded by his loving family. He was a man of strong faith, sterling character, extraordinary integrity and abiding affection for his family.
He enlisted in the United States Army before World War II, serving as an officer in the Coast Artillery at Fort Barrancas, Fla. and Fort Bragg, N.C. On one occasion, he was honored to have his troops reviewed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. A favorite prewar posting was the Panama Canal Zone where he commanded a unit charged with clearing hilltop jungle sites for installation of a battery of anti-aircraft artillery to guard the canal.
During the war, he served with distinction in England, North Africa and Italy. He was a staff officer with Generals Mark Clark, George Patton and Dwight Eisenhower in the planning and execution of Operation Torch, the British-American invasion of French North Africa. Sailing through the Straits of Gibraltar, he landed in Oran, Algeria, in November 1942.
He was especially proud of his wartime service coordinating joint operations of British and American forces. In recognition of this service, King George VI named him "an honorary officer in the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire" (OBE), an order of chivalry founded by the British monarch.
Following the war, Colonel Rawls continued his distinguished military career as an officer at the Pentagon, the United States War College (now the National Defense University) and the Guided Missile School at Fort Bliss, Texas.
In 1954 he left the Army and began his second career as an engineer and supervisor with the Boeing Company in Seattle. He served on various aerospace projects including the BOMARC surface-to-air guided missile, the Franco-German ROLAND short-range missile, the HAWK missile (which he named), the Lunar Orbiter and the Saturn V rocket. He retired from Boeing in 1978.
Born in Columbia, Miss., on Aug. 23, 1914, he grew up with seven brothers and sisters. He excelled at boyhood activities in the 4H Club, winning both state and national competitions. As a result, he was interviewed on a nationwide radio broadcast from Chicago and was invited to the White House to meet President Herbert Hoover.
He graduated from Mississippi State University with a degree in civil engineering and later was awarded a masters degree in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins University.
The love of his life was his wife, Kathleen, who predeceased him in 2006 after 69 years of devoted married life. In their retirement years together, Jay and Kathleen traveled abroad, frequently visiting England, Spain, Germany, Japan and China. They resided in Sonoma from 1995 to 1997.
Jay Rawls is survived by his three children, David Rawls, of Idaho; Jim Rawls, of Sonoma; and Melissa Deitrick, of Washington; six grandchildren, including Benjamin and Elizabeth Rawls, of Sonoma; and eight great-grandchildren. He delighted in them all.
The family suggests memorial bequests be made to the Judson Park Foundation, 23600 Marine View Drive, Des Moines, Wash. 98198.