MONTICELLO, Ill. (WCIA) — A 96-year-old World War II veteran died this week.
Les Gadbury’s family said he knew almost everyone in Monticello. They also said his life was nothing short of extraordinary.
Gadbury was featured in an “Angels Among Us” segment in 2019. He was a marine who lost his Ka-Bar knife in the 50s and was gifted a new one by a fellow marine from Decatur.
After he became a veteran, he also became a football coach. Throughout his life, Gadbury touched many other lives. Whether that was on the battlefield, the football field, behind the wheel as a driver’s ed teacher or just on the street.
Gadbury’s daughter, Gloria Cardoni, said he will always be her angel even if he is not among us anymore. “He knew it was coming,” said Cardoni. He passed away Thursday morning after suffering a stroke.
Cardoni said during his 96 years, he never met a stranger. “Everybody knew my dad, so all of us kids, we had to behave,” said Cardoni.
Michael Harris played for the Monticello Football team while Gadbury was the coach. “When he spoke, you listened. I recall one time when we had a trick play and he came up to me and sent me in and said, ‘I want the middle linebacker laying on the ground.’ And I did…I took him out.” He knew him well, but neither he, nor Cardoni, really knew much about Gadbury’s military accomplishments until the past couple of years. They said that was just the thing about him. “Humility and humbleness. That spoke volumes to me,” said Harris.
Though flowers and sympathy cards are nice gestures, Gadbury’s family and friends do not need them to know how much he was loved by so many and how much he loved life, right up until the end. “He said clear as day even with a stroke, ‘I’ve had a wonderful life.’ It was a long process, but it was also the most beautiful lesson,” said Cardoni.
They are having his funeral on Monday, which just so happens to be the 75th anniversary of his landing on Iwo Jima.