Lester Anthony Jacoby, 92
COLUMBIA, SC - Les Jacoby, 92, beloved father, grandfather, brother, uncle and friend, and the last combat steam and diesel locomotive railroad engineer in the world, died on Tuesday, October 27, 2020 in Columbia, South Carolina. He was born in Wabasha, Minnesota, the oldest of 11 children born to Nicholas and Marcella (Kennebeck) Jacoby, and lived on the family farm in southern Minnesota, with no running water or electricity, until he entered the U.S. Army in 1946.
He proudly served his country first during WWII as an advisor to the Korean National Railroad, then with the 790th Transportation Railway Operating Battalion, where at the age of 19 he became the engineer of the last USATC S160 steam locomotive to be used in conflict. He operated the Gen. Pershing #101 in combat until he returned to the US at the end of his tour. The Gen. Pershing 101 is now a permanent exhibit at the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, WI.
After entering college at the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Les was recalled into Army service in 1950 to learn to operate the EMD SW8 electric diesel locomotive and to teach other soldiers at Oakland Army Base how to operate the diesel locomotives they were taking to Korea. Two of the 41 SW8 locomotives his unit took to Korea now reside at the South Carolina Railroad Museum in Winnsboro, SC. After transporting the locomotives to Korea, he helped establish the teletype communications complex for 3rd TMRS (Transportation Military Railroad Service) Advance Headquarters then being established in newly recaptured Seoul. He served in the Korean War until 1951.
Upon his return to the U.S. in 1951, he completed his degrees in English and history and met his future wife, Beverly Jones, at neighboring College of St. Catherine’s. After graduating from St. Thomas, Les worked in insurance and finance for Prudential and Investors Diversified Services (IDS) and married Beverly in 1957 in her hometown of Amery, Wisconsin. They settled in suburban Minneapolis and had one daughter, Jeanne. They lived in the Minneapolis area until Les retired and they moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1983. He continued to work in various jobs, never one to be idle for too long, and made many friends at Trinity Towers, Osteopathic Hospital and the Texas Employment Commission. He and his family also enjoyed traveling Texas, across the United States and Mexico in those years. He lost his beloved wife, Bev, in 1993, but continued to work and live in Corpus Christi until he moved to Columbia, SC to be closer to his daughter and her family in 2010. He was blessed to have a decade to closely witness his grandchildren grow and flourish in their youth.
Les is survived by his daughter, Jeanne (Joe) Lisowski, and four grandchildren: Jeff Z. Brooker IV (“JZ”), Nicholas Brooker (“Jake”), Brennan Brooker, and Joey Lisowski. He also leaves behind one brother, Don (Mary), and five sisters Marlene (Clyde) Honermann, Joan (Gene) Peters, Carol (John) Kasper, Barb (Tom) Barton, and Mary (Bruce) Richards. He is remembered far and wide by many nieces, nephews, cousins, and dear friends as far away as Europe.
He joins his beloved wife, Beverly Jones, his parents, and two brothers, Marvin (Jan) and Lyle (Diane), two sisters, Muriel Leisen and Adele Usher, dear friend Ginger Lamare McAuliffe, and too many cousins, family and friends to count, in eternal rest.
Les will be interred at Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio on Tuesday, November 10, 2020 at 9:30 am with his beloved wife Beverly. His family and friends will celebrate his life at a memorial Mass at St. Felix Catholic Church in Wabasha, Minnesota on July 31, 2021.
In lieu of flowers, please feel free to remember Les with a gift to the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, WI, because the General Pershing #101 steam locomotive that he drove in WWII is housed there or the South Carolina Railroad Museum in Winnsboro, SC, which houses 2 of the 41 SW8 locomotives his unit took to Korea; or to the Disabled American Veterans because he lost much of his hearing during basic training in the Army in 1946 and struggled with the loss the rest of his life; or to South Texas Public Radio KEDT FM, because he loved classical and Big Band music and his dear friend, Ginny Lamare, hosted her Big Band radio show “Moonlight Serenade” on KEDT for years. Or just send his family a brief note, recalling a precious memory of Les that you have, so they can smile and share that memory of him too.
Dunbar Funeral Home, Devine Street Chapel, is assisting the family. Memories may be shared at www.dunbarfunerals.com.