World War II veteran celebrates 98th birthday

Published 5:00 pm Friday, June 19, 2015

By Beth Hyatt


Rutherford B. (“Teet”) Stabler is one of Butler County’s oldest living World War II veterans who turned 98 on Friday, June 12.

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His birthday was celebrated by his loyal friends at Hardee’s on Friday and also by his church and family at Walnut Street Church of Christ the following Sunday.

Stabler was born in Bolling, Ala., in 1917 in the community called Wild Fork. He later moved to Sand Cut, followed by Forest Home.

His fondest childhood memories included the times he and his family would travel into Greenville.

“We would come to Greenville to shop in the fall of the year,” Stabler said.

He enjoyed being able to attend the theater downtown and see the stores. He still remembers a few of the businesses that were located downtown, such as the Planters Mercantile and Beeland Mercantile.

Stabler enjoyed spending this time with his siblings Pauline, William (Bill) and Claire and his parents, Lloyd and Mary Stabler.

Stabler was the second oldest child, and he remembers his mother and his older sister encouraging him as he grew up. They worked hard to help him grow into a respectable young man.

“They made me be a better person,” Stabler said.

After marrying his first wife, they settled in Fort Deposit.

Stabler joined the service in July of 1942 and completed his basic training in Miami.

He then traveled to the Philippine Islands and was also deployed to Japan shortly after the dropping of the atomic bomb.

Stabler was part of the 33rd Infantry division that was sent to Japan during that time.

He retired from service in January of 1946.

It was in 1947 that Stabler began to work with Carl Golson Motor Company in Fort Deposit.

Once the business expanded to Greenville, Stabler worked as a service manager and commuted to work. In 1949, he made his way to Greenville permanently.

Stabler gained a vast amount of mechanical knowledge while working with Carl Golson Motor Company as well as Fox Chevrolet in 1951.

Stabler has seen Greenville change tremendously over the years.

In 1952, he built a house on the lot where Captain D’s currently stands; it was one of the only buildings in the area at that time.

The only business located in that area was a Pure Oil service station, which stood where the Shell Station is now. Reese Raybon ran the service station.

“There have been a lot of changes made in Greenville, up and down,” said Stabler.

In 1955, he began a 22-year career at Maxwell Air Force Base before moving on to a job a Terrell Enterprises.

Stabler retired for the first time in June of 1977 after working with Terrell Enterprises for 15 years.

His second retirement came when he turned 75 years old.

Stabler has traveled to all 50 states and has visited  more than different countries such as England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Holland and Japan.

“After I retired, my first wife, her sister and her husband did a lot of travelling. We hit every state in the Union.

We spent some time in a lot of them. But we were trying to hit all the states as we were traveling,” said Stabler.

At the start of the ‘80s, Stabler began meeting with his friends at Hardee’s and continued to do so up until a few years ago.

He would go every morning to sit and socialize with his friends as well as share a good meal.

Just two years ago, Stabler could even be seen fixing his own vehicles as well as cutting his own lawn.

For his 90th birthday, his friends and family all gathered for a party in his honor.

“They flew a flag over the capital and Charles Newton, who was the representative at the time, presented him that at his party that year,” said Stabler’s wife, Eleanor.

For being such a loyal Coca-Cola customer over the past 90 years, the factory brought him three complimentary cases of bottled Cokes for his enjoyment.

“People think of Coca-Cola as being bad for you. He drinks two a day and has for a lot of days,” Eleanor said.

Stabler was also honored to participate in the Lions Club Memorial Day Celebration walk last year at Confederate Park.

Stabler’s two sons, Douglas and Stephen, along with his two daughters-in-law, organized his most recent birthday party, which was held at Walnut Street Church of Christ on June 14.

Stabler and his wife, Eleanor, have been married now for 29 years and have enjoyed traveling the country and sharing their lives together.

The two currently reside in Greenville and attend church services at Walnut Street Church of Christ every Sunday they are able.

Stabler has attended this church since 1949.