Courtesy of his classmates: United States Military Academy
17293 ARTHUR RUTLEDGE UNDERWOOD, Jr.
21 Jun 1921 – 8 Apr 1996
Died in San Antonio, Texas
Interred in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia
Late in the evening of 8 April 1996, Arthur Rutledge Underwood Jr., died in his bed from heart failure and complications of cancer. At 69, Art had lived a full life. The son of Colonel Arthur R. Underwood, Class of 1909, Art was reared in the nomadic life of the Army. His father served with distinction through both world wars and eventually commanded Fort Thomas, Kentucky.
With his father's example to follow, Art prepared early for a military career of his own. While attending Sullivan's Preparatory school, he roomed with his lifelong friend Charles Cheever, Class of 1949. Although he did not consider himself a great athlete, Art loved hockey and played it growing up.
Art developed a wry sense of humor in his childhood that would be a trademark throughout his life. Just one example of his exploits is when he enlisted his brother Andrew, Class of '54, to help fill paper bags with frogs so that when his parents returned from a party, they would find a living room filled with bouncing bags. His sense of humor stood him in good stead among the “flankers” of L-2. Academics were not easy for him, but he loved poetry and read widely. While at West Point, he was a member of the Ski Club for four years.
After graduation, Art married his sweetheart of many years Helen Johanna Knuebel, known to her friends as “Jo.” He received initial training with his Army classmates at Ft. Riley, KS, and attended the Infantry Officers Basic Course at Fort Benning, Georgia.
In the Korean War, he initially served as a Platoon Leader and then as a Company Commander with the 65th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. He was twice wounded and awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge and a Bronze Star for his Korean service.
Art and Jo's first son Arthur III (U. S. Naval Academy 1972) was born while Art was in Korea. Their second son Christopher John was born in 1953, and their third son,Charles Ross, arrived a year later in 1954. Art had been sent to Fort Benning upon returning from Korea, initially commanding a company in Officer Candidate School. Later, he served on the staff and faculty of the Infantry School. When Art completed his Infantry Advanced Course, he moved to the first of two assignments in Panama.
Following a tour at Fort Kobbe, where his youngest son Thomas Foster, Class of 1979 was born in 1957, Art moved his family to Fort Leonard Wood, Misssouri. He served in a variety of training assignments, to include commanding a basic recruit training battalion. It was an unusual and rewarding six years before he moved his family to his next assignment with the Third Army at Fort McPherson, Georgia.
It was during that assignment that Art began to enjoy golf. Upon his return to Panama, some would comment that he took the position with USARSO because the front yard of his quarters faced the front nine holes of the Fort Amador Golf Course and the back nine was out his back yard. Indeed, Art was becoming a “golf junkie.”
From Panama, Art received orders for Vietnam. While moving his family to San Antonio, Texas, Art suffered a heart attack that brought an end to his military career. After 22 years of military service, he medically retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1971 and found an ideal house for his family, just a few blocks from a nine hole golf course.
Art tried his hand at teaching but soon found helping people obtain jobs to be more rewarding. He took a position at the Texas Employment Commission and, within a few years, was developing programs to help reclaim homeless veterans. Getting those indigents off the street and back into mainstream society became a mission. Coworkers were impressed with his determination to provide the best opportunity for rehabilitation for displaced veterans. As a result, a number of the programs he developed have been adopted throughout the Texas.
During that time, the Underwoods lost their eldest son to leukemia. Lieutenant Arthur R. Underwood III was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in August 1975.
In line with his desire to help people, Art studied counseling and earned a master's degree in guidance and counseling from Saint Mary's University. Although he began a small counseling practice, most of his time was spent with the Veteran's programs he championed.
When Art passed away, his son Chris was helping Jo care for him. Although his health had deteriorated rapidly over two years, Art was in little pain. It was a peaceful and fitting end for this soldier who spent his life caring for and protecting others.
His wife Jo and sons Chris, Charles, and Tom survive Art, although Charles died on 10 Jan 2002. It is fitting that Art's cremated remains were laid to rest in gravesite 1949 at Arlington National Cemetery, only a few paces from his eldest son Arthur III.
When Art saw someone in need, he did all he could to help. His life is not measured by his accomplishments but, rather, by the souls he helped. May it be said of him, “Well done.”
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard