A.J. Lehman, in his own words, was no hero.
But to veterans everywhere, Lehman, who passed away on February 6th 2019, was a remarkable man. Born in 1922, Lehman was the firstborn son of Alvin and Letha Lehman of Linton.
After A.J., the Lehmans went on to have seven more offspring: Nigel, Lois, Harry, Phylis, Billy, Geraldine and Alfred.
Lehman served with the United States Marine Corps in World War II, earning the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the Silver Star, five Bronze Stars, the WWII Victory Medal, Philippines Liberation
Ribbon, Philippines Presidential Unit Citation and the Marine Good Conduct Medal.
He married his first wife – high school Sweetheart, Rosemary Strickland – in 1945. Strickland was the daughter of Emory and Grace Strickland of Bloomfield.
Their wedding took place on Dec. 18, 1945, as soon as Lehman returned from his service during WWII.
Lehman and his first wife had four sons, David (Teresa) Lehman, Steve (Priscilla) Lehman and twins Robert Lehman and Richard (Beth) Lehman. They also had one daughter, Carla (Terry) Clark.
AJ is also survived by grandchildren Stephen (Juliann) Lehman, Daniel (Rachel) Powell, John (Jackie) Campbell, Chad (Sabrina) Lehman, Cory (Rachel) Lehman and Christopher Lehman, Britt Kinder as well as eleven great-grandchildren.
Tragically, Rosemary passed away in 1967 and Lehman married again, this time to Violet Evard Lehman who preceded him in death in 1998.
During his years with the United States Marine Corps, Lehman served on the U.S.S. Denver, a light cruiser patrolling the Pacific.
Aboard the Denver, Lehman served as part of an attachment to the 7th Fleet of the U.S. Navy and saw action at the battles of Leyte Gulf and Okinawa.
Lehman earned several awards in his lifetime, including the Distinguished Hoosier Award, lifetime memberships in VFW Post 1987 and the VFW National Home, the Bartholomew County Historical Society Tipton Award, two Certificates of Appreciation from Camp Atterbury and a lifetime membership in American Legion Post 24.
The Distinguished Hoosier Award is one of the highest awards that can be given by the State of Indiana to one of its citizens.
Of his military service, Lehman said, “I was just one of many red-blooded Americans who had a chance to serve our country, and that’s what I did.”
Lehman served as District Commander to VFW Post 1987 in Columbus, and in his honor, the Post installed a 15 x 9 American flag, made of a material called Astroglase.
Former Governor Frank O’Bannon wrote in April 2000, “You made Indiana proud, A.J., not only during the war, but also in the many years that have followed, during whom you have never failed to honor your fellow soldiers. You came home to raise a beautiful family and to be a positive part of the Columbus community as a member of what I believe is truly America’s greatest generation.”
Lehman has devoted much of his time and dedication to veterans affairs, being involved in several memorial associations, such as the Camp Atterbury Veteran’s Memorial Association.
In Bartholomew County, Lehman was involved in the creation of the Veterans Walk of Honor, which contains more than 3,800 bricks bearing the names of veterans with ties to Bartholomew County, and was instrumental in the proclamation issued by Governor Frank O’Bannon declaring May 30, 1997 as “Bartholomew County Memorial For Veterans Day.”
In August of 1999, Lehman was granted the Tipton Award by the Bartholomew County Historical Society.
Lehman spent many years with the Pennsylvania Railroad, retiring in 1980.
Looking back, he remarked, “I have lived a long, full life. I’ve been blessed with many friends, and I can’t think of any enemies. I did what I did in this life for love. Love of my country, love of my family. I’m no hero.” Many would disagree.
Viewing will be at 10 a.m. til 1 p.m. Saturday February 9th with the funeral service to follow at 1 p.m. at Jewell-Rittman Family Funeral Home, 3855 25th St. Columbus, Indiana, with the Rev. Paul Castle and the Rev. Lane Loman officiating. Burial will be at Garland Brook Cemetery with military honors provided by the Bartholomew County Veterans Honor Guard.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be given to the Columbus Free Methodist Church.