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Leslie and Suzi

Leslie Thurnau of Osage stands with his wife, Suzi, in front of a drawing their son, Lonnie, did freehand from a photo taken of him when he joined the Navy during World War II at age 17. 

Leslie Thurnau, this year's grand marshal for the Osage Fourth of July Parade, is believed to be one of the last surviving World War II veteran in town.

"I guess I'm just kind of dumbfounded (to be chosen)," said the 92-year-old, who still lives in his own home with his wife of nearly 72 years, Suzi. 

Leslie, who was raised on a farm near Osage, joined the Navy in 1944 when he was just 17. 

"I had to have my folks sign for me," he said. 

Leslie was in the Seabees, who built highways and docks. 

He spent 13 months in Okinawa. 

"I was there when (President) Roosevelt died and I also was there when they dropped the bad bombs (over Japan)," Leslie said. 

After that he served six months aboard a cargo ship in Shanghai. 

Leslie returned home in 1947, and he and Suzi, who also grew up in Mitchell County, were married. 

He had a variety of jobs over the years, including working as a bus mechanic for the Osage Community School District from 1959-71. 

Leslie also was a bus driver for the district. He said he drove 250,000 miles while taking basketball and football teams to away games. 

Leslie joined the VFW as soon as he got out of the service. He said he used to be part of the Osage post's honor guard "until I couldn't stand to march that far."  

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The year that Bob Gonzales was the grand marshal of the Fourth of July parade, he rode in a Jeep that Leslie drove. 

"He's been gone quite a while now," Leslie said.

Suzi, 90, who will ride with Leslie in this year's Fourth of July parade, is from a family of 13 children and a long-time member of the VFW Auxiliary. 

"We are quite the military family," she said. 

Suzi has eight brothers and two brothers-in-law who served in the military. Her father was in the Navy, and was sent to Pearl Harbor just after the Japanese attack in December 1941. 

Leslie and Suzi, who met when he was 15 and she was 13, have two sons and a daughter. They also have five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. 

The couple used to go to dances at the VFW and other places until about a year ago, when Leslie's leg problems became too advanced. 

Suzi said they loved to dance to country songs such as "Sweetheart of the Rodeo."

Leslie said he's "kind of excited" about riding in this year's Fourth of July parade as grand marshal. 

He and Suzi usually attend the parade. 

"I used to take my little best friend," said Leslie, referring to his dog, Muffin, who died recently at the age of 12. 

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