In Tribute: World War II vet remained humble

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Preston Dunn was a student body president at Eastern New Mexico University, a winner of three Distinguished Flying Crosses and nine Air Medals for World War II service, a business owner and a friend to many in Portales and Clovis.

But you’d never hear about it from him.

“He was a quiet person, never boasted about nothing,” brother-in-law Harold George said. “He said he was just a regular guy, but that’s not what his wingmen said about him.”

Dunn died Feb. 26 in Lubbock.

Born Dec. 31, 1920, the Artesia native came to Portales to attend Eastern New Mexico College. As a junior and the student body president, he enlisted in the military after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

A Marine Corps pilot, Dunn flew 66 missions, and told the Clovis News Journal in a 2005 “Hometown Heroes” feature that the pace was frenetic.

“I didn’t have time to feel,” Dunn said. “You were scared all the time anyway.”

When he returned from the war, he worked at a family-owned John Deere dealership in Portales. Before he had left for the war, he married Anita George.

“He wasn’t like a brother-in-law to me,” Harold George said. “He and I were brothers. We owned land together for about 45 years and never had one cross argument. That was the kind of person he was.”

He had a similar relationship in his next business endeavor at Wheeler Mortuary. He co-owned the business with Scott Reeves from 1976 to 1993.

“He was a great business partner,” Reeves said. “He and I were equal partners. It was a great team because he was a little older. He was older, and he kept me from making foolish mistakes.”

Dunn’s interests included hunting, fishing and any activity with Anita or his only child, Lois Marie Coats.

“Dad participated in all of my activities,” Coats said. “It didn’t matter what I was doing, he was always there, as was my mother.”

His other passion was reading, Coats said. His favorite books were Westerns, and Coats said he had probably read every book by Louis L’Amour at least twice.

Her mom and dad moved to Lubbock in 2006 due to health problems, Coats said. While it was hard for her to see her father having health problems, it was good to be together as a family in those final months.

In Tribute is a regular feature. To suggest an honoree, contact CNJ managing editor Rick White at 763-6991 or by e-mail: rwhite@cnjonline.com