Watching Maynard Nalley dressed up as a clown and delighting young hospital patients with his antics, you might never guess that he was once a paratrooper in one of America’s most elite forces, the 101st Airborne Division.
Nalley made five jumps into German-held territory during the final 10 months of World War II.
Like many combat veterans, Nalley was reluctant to give details about harrowing wartime experiences.
His son-in-law, Ray Bishop of Loganville, said Nalley did confirm that he and his unit parachuted behind German lines near Normandy, France, three days after the Allied invasion began on June 6, 1944. Bishop said his father-in-law made another jump in German-occupied Holland and three other jumps in unspecified locations.
Bishop said Nalley also had the satisfaction of taking part in the occupation of Adolf Hitler’s mountain retreat, called the Eagle’s Nest, outside Berchtesgaden, Germany, in May 1945.
For his wartime contributions, Nalley was awarded several decorations, including the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.
Maynard Lee Nalley Jr., 89, died Jan. 13 of heart failure at his Lawrenceville home. A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Sunday at First Methodist Church of Lawrenceville. Wages & Sons Funeral Home, Lawrenceville, is in charge of arrangements.
After the war, Nalley returned to his hometown of Atlanta and eventually settled in the Oakland City neighborhood. During the two decades he lived there, he helped lead an Explorer Scout troop and coached Little League baseball. He also was a volunteer firefighter with the Red Key Fire Department in south Fulton County.
Nalley was licensed as a master plumber. His daughter, Susan Bishop, said that was his occupation for a quarter of a century “even though Daddy developed macular degeneration in his mid-30s and bit by bit had to view his work from the periphery of his field of vision.”
Most of the projects in which he was involved were commercial, such as plumbing work for the hotel in Century Center on Atlanta’s northeast side.
After retiring in 1977 and moving to Lawrenceville, he became one of the first male volunteer workers at Gwinnett Medical Center. Nalley delivered flowers, dropped by patients’ rooms to spread cheer, helped released patients to their cars, and ran errands for hospital staffers.
He belonged to Lawrenceville Masonic Lodge #131, Lawrenceville Daylight Lodge #744, Scottish Rite, the Gwinnett Shrine Club and the Grand Lodge of Georgia.
He created a character called Hobo the Clown. Made up to resemble the celebrated circus performer Emmett Kelly, he entertained young patients, especially those at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Greenville, S.C. In 1992 he was voted Shrine Clown of the Year.
Also surviving are his wife of 65 years, Clydene Nalley; a son, Maynard Lee Nalley III of Roswell; a sister, Frances Waites of Atlanta; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
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