A Culver soldier finally gets his due

WW2 vet McCallister’s gravesite military rites to take place here
June 28 -- 30 years after his passing

It's been around 70 years since Culver's Jim McAllister flew 72 missions in a Spitfire fighter plane over Germany with the 107th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, and 30 years since he died in 1984, but later this month his wife, Harriet Provost, will finally see what she long felt was an injustice righted.

Jim McAllister will at last receive graveside military rites Saturday, June 28 at 11 a.m. at Culver's Masonic Cemetery. Friends and the general public are invited to attend.

McAllister was originally from Texas and attended Texas Tech, working at the Studebaker factory in South Bend in the summertime and eventually moving to Culver to be close to his first wife's family. Tragedy struck, however, and McAllister became a widower and the single father of three girls (two of them twins) when his wife was killed in a 1951 auto accident.

"He was so devoted to those girls, he knew he had to get a job locally," explains Provost, whose maiden name of Bonine will make her all the more familiar to Culver residents (her brother is Jim Bonine, long associated with Culver's only funeral home, today Odom's). "So he got a job at the State Exchange Bank (today's First Farmer's Bank). He was 15 years between wives; his number one priority was raising those girls."

The former Harriet Bonine walked into the bank in 1962 seeking employment, and happened to walk to McAllister's window first. She says she knew there was something special about him. She believes, too, that what would become her warm relationship with his daughters was a major factor in his eventual willingness to consider a second marriage.

The two fell in love and were married in 1968, with two children of their own coming along within the next three years.
Through the years, McAllister made many a friend in Culver, and he rose in the ranks of the bank here, later becoming vice president of the First National Bank in Rochester, Indiana, where the couple would eventually move.

Jim McAllister was no stranger to suffering during World War II, and sadly that didn't change during his post-war life either. One of his twin daughters died when he was 64 years old. And he himself was gone, suddenly and unexpectedly, in 1984, of a brain aneurism, leaving a devastated wife and children behind.

McAllister had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with 13 Oak Leaf Clusters for his wartime service, eventually rising to the rank of major in the air reserves, choosing to resign after his wife's death rather than leaving his daughters behind while he attended training sessions.

So it’s to be expected that Jim McAllister's service, then, had been important to him, and it was important to his family. His wife was surprised when the pastor at their Presbyterian church in Rochester at the time would not take part in graveside military services following his passing.

That pastor, Rev. John Ramsey, said at the time that the denominational rules precluded such a service, though Provost debates that point (which may all boil down to interpretation). Regardless, Provost and her family were too emotionally devastated to fight for the service 30 years ago, something she says she has since regretted.

"It was upsetting because I knew he was deserving of it," she says. "I just couldn't deal with it then and I wasn't going to argue the fact. I just crumbled to the fact that the pastor wouldn't be a part of this, so just forget it."

She didn't forget it, however, though she might have continued to let it rest if she hadn't seen an article by the editor of her local paper, The Rochester Sentinel. Written by W.S. Wilson, the piece eloquently recalled the military services given Wilson's own World War II veteran father and how moving and appropriate those services were to his father's commitment to freedom and his service.

When Wilson learned of McAllister's story last year, he published a detailed account of the situation in the Sentinel, which is where Tom Migonis of the Rochester VFW read about it. He contacted Wilson and soon Provost was involved in the conversation. It wasn’t too late, Provost learned, and the local VFW would be honored to perform military rites, whenever she wishes.

She decided to wait until Jim McAllister's two older daughters would be in Culver, for their Culver High School reunion June 28. An honor guard from Fulton County will indeed be here for the service, and Provost felt it only right that W.S. Wilson will act as facilitator.

"It's really because of him that we're even at this point," she says.

Wilson, and of course Jim McAllister himself.