Warren Z. Felty, 94, of Middletown, passed away December 2 at the Harrisburg Hospital. Born Sept. 5, 1917 he was the son of the late Morris Clayton and Sophia Minnie Zieters Felty.
Warren was a 1935 graduate of Hummelstown High School where he was an American Legion Medal award recipient & captain of the football team.
He served with the 104th Cavalry before transferring to the Army Air Corps where he was an Aviation Cadet and B-17 pilot in the 8th Air Force stationed at Snetterton England. He flew 17 missions & was shot down over Germany & became a prison of war for 1.5 years before being liberated by General George Patton. He received several military medals including the Presidential Citation & two Purple Hearts. He was a member of the Caterpillar Club by Irvin Parachute Company having used the company's chute to save his life during the war. He was also a member of the DAY, American Legion, and Ex-POW clubs.
After the war he worked for Athey Paint Co. then at family-owned Weirich's Hardware & retired from Appleby Bros. and Whitaker.
He was a member of the Presbyterian Congregation of Middletown for 34 years. He served on the Middletown Borough Council and was past president of Middletown Rotary Club where he was recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow & was co-founder and chairman of the Rotary Scholarship program. In his later years He shared with school students throughout the region his experiences during the war, & enjoyed volunteering with the Keystone Human Services Capital Area Head Start program where he read books to the children.
Warren loved traveling, golf, and dogs, and enjoyed spending time with his family & friends. He was bestowed with different nicknames throughout his life including 'Felty' & 'Zeke', but the one he enjoyed the most was being called 'Pop-Pop' by his loved ones.
Warren's message to future generations was: "Love your country, respect your flag, enjoy your freedom because much blood has been shed and many lives have been lost to pass that freedom on."
He is survived by his son Dennis W. Felty & daughter-in-law Barbara J. Felty of Middletown, and granddaughter Laura J. Butcher (Felty) & husband David of Harrisburg, and grandson Adam C. Felty and wife Rachel of Middletown, and great-grandsons Jacob Lincoln Butcher and Noah Warren Felty, as well as multiple nieces and nephews. Warren is preceded in death by his wife of 64 years Martha Jane (Weirich) Felty, as well as four siblings Paul, Lester, Claire Felty and Blanche (Felty) Poorman.
The viewing will be from 10 a.m. - 11 a.m. on Thursday, December 8 at the Presbyterian Congregation of Middletown , N. Union & W. Water Streets, Middletown, PA. A tribute to his life will follow at the church at 11 a.m. with the Rev. Donald C. Potter officiating. Inurnment with military honors will take place on Friday, December 9 at 12:30PM at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made to Keystone Human Services, 124 Pine Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101, or the Presbyterian Congregation of Middletown.
Arrangements by the Matinchek & Daughter Funeral Home 260 East Main St., Middletown. www.pennlive.com/obits
Published in Patriot-News on December 5, 2011
HE WAS VERY HESITANT TO SEE HIMSELF AS A HERO"
Felty rescued a man twice, once while he was a WWII prisoner. He survived his plane being shot down. Yet it took decades for him to talk about it.
By Daivd Wenner, Patriot-News December 10, 2011
Warren Felty of Middletown lived out a classic World War II tale: B-17 bomber pilot, shot down over Germany, prison camp survivor, freed by Gen. George Patton.
Yet the story that tells the most about his character might be one involving an incredible coincidence that spanned central Pennsylvania and wartime Europe.
In 1940, when Felty was just a few years of out of Hummelstown High School, he saw a car skid off an icy road near Harrisburg.
He stopped his car and ran to help the driver, William Miller, who was thrown through the windshield.
Felty carried the unconscious Miller back to his car and drove him to the hospital. He and Miller later met but formed no immediate bond.
Fast-forward to 1944.
Felty, now a war prisoner, was among thousands of soldiers forced to march across eastern Germany.
Soldiers fell away and died in the snow.
An exhausted, collapsed soldier caught Felty's attention.
It was Miller.
Neither had any idea the other had joined the Army Air Corps, let alone that each had become a B-17 pilot.
Sitting in Miller's home in Camp Hill years later, they recounted the incident for a story that ran in The Patriot-News in 1986.
"I saw this body in the snow, I kicked it and there he was, Bill Miller. Unbelievable," Felty said.
Felty further said that, in stopping to help Miller, he did what anyone would have done.
Miller disagreed. "I saw many people walk by me. ... That march did things to people. It was every man for himself."
Felty and others exhorted and carried Miller onward in the coldest German winter in 80 years. They made it to Stalag Luft III, where 4,000 prisoners were held.
U.S. troops led by Patton arrived in April 1945. They raised the American flag, and the former prisoners sang "God Bless America."
The story of Felty and Miller was later included in a book by C. Brian Kelly called "Best Little Stories from World War II." It was recounted by radio host Paul Harvey, said Felty's son, Dennis Felty.
Still, Felty's war exploits weren't something he immediately basked in.
He flew 17 B-17 missions, which typically involved 36 planes. Often, up to half didn't return.
Felty's plane once limped home after losing two of its four engines and sustaining 300 holes from bullets and flak.
When his plane was shot down, he bailed out at 28,000 feet and immediately opened his parachute.
That was a potentially fatal mistake, because there was insufficient oxygen at that altitude, and the correct procedure was to free-fall before opening the chute.
As Felty hung in the sky, he saw a German fighter plane bearing down. But instead of firing, the German pilot flew close several times, apparently knowing it would temporarily collapse Felty's parachute, enabling him to reach an altitude where he would survive.
Felty was left to wonder whether the German committed an act of mercy to a fellow pilot, or merely regarded an American pilot as more useful as an interrogation subject.
Felty lost more than 50 pounds as a prisoner. He and fellow prisoners sustained themselves, in part, by eating whatever animals they could find and kill, Dennis Felty said.
He never piloted a plane after leaving the Air Corps, and rarely took commercial flights.
He didn't talk much about his war experiences until long afterward.
"He was very hesitant to see himself as a hero," his son said. "I think his experiences were so painful that it took a while to put them into perspective and begin sharing them."
Still, Felty said that after surviving the prison camp, he viewed every day as a "bonus" and, out of gratitude for being alive and comfortable, he never left uneaten food on his plate.
He went on to a career as a salesman of paint, then plumbing supplies, and he also worked for a while for a family hardware store. He served on the Middletown Borough Council.
Felty and his wife, Martha, were married for 64 years. She died four years ago.
In his 70s, Felty finally opened up about his World War II experiences, first to family, then others, including local students.
One of his messages was: "Love your country, respect your flag, enjoy your freedom, because much blood has been shed and many lives have been lost to pass that freedom on."
He also became a volunteer reader to children in Head Start programs, which he continued until he was about 90.
Even though he was low-key regarding his military record, he passed down a tradition of service.
Dennis Felty was an Air Force pilot, and Felty's grandson, Adam Felty, served in the Marines, including two tours in Iraq.
Adam Felty, 28, views his grandfather as someone who experienced the darkest human acts but didn't let it destroy his humanity.
Nor did he let it inflate his ego, or create emotional baggage that burdened those around him.
"It was never something he defined himself by," Adam Felty said. "It was more him just being a 'pop-pop,' a grandfather, keeping our innocence intact."
"LOVE YOUR COUNTRY, RESPECT YOUR FLAG, ENJOY YOUR FREEDOM, BECAUSE MUCH BLOOD HAS BEEN SHED AND MANY LIVES HAVE BEEN LOST TO PASS THAT FREEDOM ON." Warrn Felty, 1917-2011
Martha Jane Weirich Felty
1918–2007 (m. 1943)
Sponsored by Ancestry