Charles Raymond Ketchem Sr., born March 23, 1923, died of natural causes at his home on Cherry Hill Farm in Philippi on March 25, 2012. He was born and raised at Union community of Philippi in Barbour County, and was the son of the late Thurman Lee and Mamie Simpson Ketchem.
He is survived by his wife, Pamela Ketchem (born Pamela Ponting, of London, England), former wife Virginia Minnick of Parrott, VA, daughters Olive Marie Zinn of Moatsville and Judy Martin of Apple Creek, OH, sons Jeffrey Bowers of Knoxville, TN, Eric Bowers of Manor, PA, and Charles Raymond Ketchem Jr. of Montclair, NJ, and nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
He was predeceased by his former wife Kathryn R. Ketchem (born Kathryn Rice of Reading, PA), son Danny Ketchem of Philippi, brothers George, Lloyd, Lee and William Ketchem and sister Laura Shaffer.
Starting at age 15, Charles worked in local coalmines and at the Radford Arsenal in Radford, VA. He joined the U.S. Army in 1943.
During World War II, he served in the 31st Chemical Company in Europe and landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, in the early hours of the D-Day invasion. He was one of five officers and 113 enlisted men to receive the Bronze Service Arrowhead for their valor. Ketchem subsequently received five battle stars for action in Belgium, Rhineland and France, including helping defeat the German offensive in the Battle of the Bulge. He marched down the Champs d’Elysees behind Charles de Gaulle and General LeClerc on the day of liberation in Paris.
After the war, Charles married Virginia Minnick. Through the G.I. Bill, he earned certificates in heating, air conditioning and refrigeration from McKim Technical Institute in Akron, OH, and worked as a service manager for Montgomery Ward in Clarksburg, and Hercules Powder Co. in Radford, VA.
He moved home to Philippi in 1956 and opened a furniture and appliance business. He then married Kathryn Ketchem in 1962. Together, they owned and operated Ketchem’s Inc., a contracting business specializing in air conditioning, heating and refrigeration, until his retirement in 1986. They raised five children and tended beef cattle on their farm at Cherry Hill.
Following Kathryn Ketchem’s death in 1995, he traveled extensively in Western Europe with stacks of old photos, visiting friends and villages familiar from his service during World War II. After five years of searching, in 2002 he successfully located a former sweetheart, Pamela Smith (nee Ponting), whom he had courted in early 1944 while training for the D-Day invasion on British beaches.
Both were in their late 70s and widowed. Their relationship blossomed anew, and with the blessing of their adult children, they were married at the farm at Cherry Hill on June 23, 2003, where they lived happily for the rest of his life.
He was a member of the Belington Church of Christ.
Friends will be received at the Wright Funeral Home 216 N. Walnut St. Philippi on Tuesday March 27, from 2-8 pm and on Wednesday March 28, from 8 – 11 am the service hour with Evangelist Steve Smith officiating. Interment will follow in the Mt. Vernon Memorial Cemetery with military honours being accorded.