Longtime Murrieta resident Leroy I. Wahl, 88, passed away at his home in The Colony in Murrieta on August 4, 2013. Mr. Wahl was related by marriage to one of the pioneer families of Murrieta Valley, the Thompson clan. His wife Mirriam, who preceded him in death, was the great granddaughter of Henry Clay Thompson, one of the first settlers in the Murrieta area in 1887.
Leroy I. Wahl, of German and Mexican-American descent, was born at home in Banning, California on August 16, 1924, and grew up and attended school there. In March 1942, months after the entry of the United States into World War II, Mr. Wahl enlisted in the U.S. Navy “for the duration.” He served in the Navy until he was discharged in November 1945, a few months after the end of the war. During wartime he served in San Diego and later attended radioman’s school in Rhode Island.
On a leave back to Riverside County in July 1943, he met and married Mirriam J. Thompson. His eldest son, Dennis was born in November 1944 while Mr. Wahl was stationed in Rhode Island. After Navy schooling he was assigned to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, serving as an aircraft crewman on flights through the Caribbean and east coast during the war.After his honorable discharge from the Navy, he worked for Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica, California.
However after a few years in civilian life he re-enlisted in the Navy in February 1948. His first assignment was as an aircraft crewman in what was then the Territory of Hawaii. He served there flying personnel and cargo in and out of occupied Japan, and then when the Korean War broke out, his squadron flew in and out of Korea. The squadron he was assigned to flew four-engine transport planes, most of the time flying high ranking military leaders throughout the western Pacific. He told many stories of flying Admiral Nimitz, Admiral Halsey, and Admiral Radford throughout the post WWII era and the Korean War. He flew anywhere from Washington, DC, the west coast of California, Hawaii, Australia, Japan, Korea and most all the Pacific Islands in between.
During the Berlin airlift in 1950 his squadron was assigned to fly in Europe, but Mr. Wahl’s aircraft was the only one that was required to stay in the Pacific theater.
In 1952 he then was assigned to Alaska flying patrol planes off the coast of Russia, then later stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas, where the couple's second son, Kenneth was born.
As a typical Navy family they moved several more times: to Memphis, Tennessee; then back to Corpus Christi, Texas; then to San Diego, California (the first time), where daughter Genelle was born.
Then after advancing in grade, he was stationed at the Naval Air Station in China Lake, California. Then it was back to San Diego for another tour of duty, and back to China Lake, where he retired from the Navy in August 1966.
Ironically enough while on his last tour in San Diego, after 20 years in the Navy, he was finally assigned to his first shipboard deployment with a helicopter squadron that toured the western Pacific, including a few months off the coast of Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
He then worked 11 more years in a Civil Service position at China Lake, and retired for good to Murrieta in May 1977.
At that time Murrieta was sleepy, unincorporated farm town, and they moved into Mirriam’s grandmother’s old house, the little white house still standing at the northeast corner of Kalmia Street and Washington Avenue.
In their retirement, Mr. Wahl and his wife traveled all over the world, visiting Russia, Finland, Australia, Europe and South America. They often took off for weeks at a time on tours of these and other countries wherever the yen took them. They also traveled extensively in the United States hauling their travel trailer to the East Coast many times. In all they visited 46 of the 50 states. They often spent two to three months of the summers in Lake Odell, Oregon, fishing.
After incorporation as a city in July 1991, Mr. Wahl ran unsuccessfully for Murrieta City Council in 1997. He came in 12th of 12th place in the election, family members said.
Mr. Wahl would have preferred Murrieta remained a small, rural farming community, son Dennis said. He often remarked, however, that to his approval, the City of Murrieta had a sound budget and remained fiscally conservative.
"He was proud of that fact," Dennis said.
Having left high school to enlist in the Navy, Mr. Wahl in 2008 was among veterans awarded high school diplomas through a program offered by the Riverside County Office of Education called Operation Recognition.
Mr. Wahl was a longtime freemason who would often visit the Elks Lodge in Wildomar.
When his health began declining, Mr. Wahl lived for a brief stint in a Murrieta nursing home until, due to his "independent" nature, family members found him a home in The Colony retirement community.
Dennis recalled that his father was known to make his own wine and had a wine cellar built below the Washington Avenue home. He continued to visit the house to "just sit on the porch," Dennis said.
Mr. Wahl continued to drive a car up until six months before his passing.
Mr. Wahl is survived by his daughter Genelle (GeeBee) and two sons, Dennis and Kenneth. He enjoyed his four grandchildren Denise Dow, Juliet Nelson, Brian Ellingston, and Mariana Valdivia. They in turn presented him with seven great-grandchildren: Rylee Ellingston, Juliana Dow, Marijane Valdivia, Alexandria Dow, Piper Nelson, Jonathan Dow, and the youngest Ryker Nelson just 4 months old.
Wife Mirriam was the daughter of Willis Thompson, Sr., who was the son of Walter Thompson, who was among the six children widower Henry Clay Thompson brought to Murrieta in 1887, according to family members.
Services for Mr. Wahl will be held at 10 a.m., Friday, August 23, 2013 at Riverside National Cemetery.
—Obituary by Dennis Wahl, with contributions from Maggie Avants