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Lester LaVerne Rowlson

Biography

Rowlson, Lester


Rowlson, Lester LaVerne. (Rawlson, Bowlson), b. 1916 Cold Water, Branch County, Michigan, High school education, CCC, Single, Molder (Foundry worker), YCL, received passport# 364812 on February 1, 1937 which listed his address as Detroit, Michigan, and 4835 Gertrude Street, Dearborn, Michigan (892 Brush Street, Detroit, Michigan; Sailed February 5, 1937 aboard the Berengaria, Arrived in Spain on February 14, 1937, Served with the Albacete Auto Park; 1st Regt. de Tren.; XV BDE, Transmissiones, Returned to the US on December 15, 1938 aboard the Paris, WWII US Navy, Seabees, PTO, d. May 21, 2001. 

 

Sources: Sail, SACB, Cadre, RA, (obituary) The Volunteer, Volume 23, No. 3, September 2001, p. 20.

Photograph: Lester Rowlson in the Navy in WWII, Ancestry.

 

 

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Last Name Rowlson
First/Middle Name Lester LaVerne
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Additional Notes Les, who died on May 21, 2001 was one of 6 children who grew up on a farm near Coldwater, Michigan. They suffered such poverty that the death certificate of one of his sisters read that death was due to starvation. Les spent most of his adult life in and around Detroit. He joined the Communist Party at an early age and participated in all the labor struggles that occurred in this area. When the civil war broke out in Spain, he was one of the first to volunteer in 1936, at the age of 19. He was a truck driver by trade and was assigned a new truck to haul artillery shells from Barcelona to Madrid. He didn’t want to drive a truck. He wanted to know why he couldn’t take a gun and give the bastards what they had coming. But he accepted the job, which lasted until he was sent home in 1939. When he got back to New York, a friend introduced him to the friend’s sister; they had one date before Les had to return to Detroit. But after a few days, he went back. They eloped and got married. It was a wonderful marriage, most said the ideal marriage. They had two children, and she died one month before he did. During World War II, Les joined the Seabees and served in the Pacific building barracks. They were also responsible for removing explosives from the beaches before invasions could take place. Les was one of those rare guys who went through the dangerous offensives, was in the most dangerous fights, and somehow never got a scratch. After the war, he and his brother bought a used truck and started pouring concrete basements for the big building boom. They became one of the biggest independently owned concrete builders in the country. They refused to hire anyone who was not a member of the union, but when it turned out that there was no union for concrete workers, they persuaded the UAW to organize such a union. They also actively recruited African-American workers. One of their employees was one of the “Scottsboro Boys.” They became wealthy but never changed their political point of view. Les was one of the founders of a scholarship we vets funded at Wayne State University. He also made sure that at his funeral, the speaker would tell how proud he was to be a member of the Communist Party and a veteran of the Spanish Civil War. —Marion Noble