Leon Parish survived one of the bloodiest battles of World War II, but you would never know it – friends and family said Tuesday. At the Battle of Bastogne, one of the critical turning points of the war, he was the only officer from his unit to survive.

“He didn’t come off as a tough guy,” said the Rev. Marv Howland, himself a veteran who saw combat. “He was not loud, or crude. He was a gentle man who recovered easily from his setbacks and went on to the next thing.” 

Parish, an accountant for many years, died Saturday at age 90. His memorial service saw military citations and newspapers articles framed near his flag-draped coffin.

Parish’s friend Kyle Turner remembered Parish’s love of hunting, as well as another hobby, gardening.

“He went all out with flowers,” Turner said. “It took Shangri La to outdo him.

“It’s not much fun to go through life without a sense of humor, and Leon had a good one. He brought crawfish to accounting meetings … the only thing about it was, they were alive and he poured them out on the table.”

When Turner jokingly told his wife, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” Parish would quip, “Well that leaves the field wide open.”

Howland, also a close friend, and Parish sometimes shared combat stories, the reverend said. “Mine weren’t anything as severe as his,” he said.

As a member of Patton’s army, Parish found himself as part of the Battle of the Bulge, where “the front” was 80 miles long (in a record year for snow and cold temperature) and the Allies outnumbered. The Germans were losing, and determined to make a last stand.

“Hitler had thought that because of the bad weather and bad terrain,” Howland said, “and because this was coming so close to the Christmas season … he thought it would be a good time to plan a surprise attack, and if he could take them there at the Battle of the Bulge he could still win the war … The attack – of course, failed – and our worn, tired but determined and dedicated troops, won.”

Parish was “a soldier’s soldier,” Howland added. “All of those that served in the ‘greatest generation’ are heroes to me, because if not for them we may be speaking a different language.”