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View a eulogy for Arthur La Von Mavis, USMA '53, who passed away on August 28, 2020.

Arthur La Von Mavis

West Point, 1953

Be Thou At Peace

Posted by Neil J Mavis on September 20, 2020:

The Long Gray Line of deceased West Point graduates includes Eisenhower, Patton, MacArthur, and now, Lt. Col. (USAF retired) Arthur L. Mavis, Jr., Class of 1953, Cadet Company F-1.

Arthur La Von Mavis, Jr.
Lieutenant Colonel, US Air Force (retired)
West Point 19461-1953
23 September 1931 -- 28 August 2020

Born and raised in Bryan, Ohio on 23 September 1931 to Elaine and Arthur Sr. Art graduated from Bryan High School and entered the US Military Academy, West Point, NY on 1 July 1949. Upon graduation on 2 June 1953, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the US Air Force.

A 20-year US Air Force flight commander, Arthur piloted Air Force One for President Johnson, as well as wounded battlefield soldiers to hospitals, as a Vietnam medivac pilot while flying the C-123 aircraft.

After his West Point graduation, in Defiance, Ohio Arthur met Mary Ann on a blind date, proposed 6 days later, and 6 months later, on December 26th, 1953, started a marriage that lasted 66, producing five beautiful children (Michael, Bruce, Michelle, Lisa and Neil) and many truly precious memories.

2019 -- 1953 = 66 years

His military tours included assignments in Japan; Vietnam; Washington, DC; Baghdad, Iraq; Tehran, Iran; and Ankara, Turkey. His last military assignment was an Assistant Professor of Aerospace Sciences (APAS) at The Citadel in Charleston, SC. On weekends, Arthur took me to The Citadel to watch the parades and to attend the Saturday night football games.

Arthur told his kids that his Vietnam tour consisted of flying a B-66 for only a month. He then flew the B-66 to Davis Monthan AFB in Arizona, and he returned to Vietnam to fly the C-123 for the rest of his tour.


"Unloading the aircraft at Ashau, Vietnam 1966" is Arthurs beautiful penmanship, on the back of this photo (below) that he never discussed. His family looked up "A Shau/Sau" and it must have been as desperately chaotic scene as the evacuation of Saigon.

Like so many Vietnam veterans, Arthur never talked about his service.

In Vietnam, he piloted medivac missions utilizing a C-123, and all he would say about it was "I flew guns, food & ammo in, and bodies out."

When I asked him about Ankara, Turkey, all he would say is, "I answered a phone."

Arthur never talked about being a mistreated Vietnam veteran. In 1973, the only time his son, Neil, remembered Arthur explode at him was when Neil found some 8mm movie reels of Arthur flying B-66 missions over Vietnam, and Neil asked him to narrate them, Arthur unexpectedly exploded "No!"

Neil's Trip to SE Asia:

Neil never brought up Vietnam again with him until 22 years later, when in 1995 Neil took a one-year sabbatical to SE Asia. President Clinton had just opened diplomatic relations with Vietnam, and Neil wanted to see the places Arthur flew. Neil was nervous to bring the itinerary up to Arthur, however, Art surprisingly and enthusiastically brought out maps of Vietnam and pointed out the airstrip locations he flew and location other pilots flew into mountains in cloudy weather. The big surprise was Arthur revealed he flew C-123 supply and medivac missions out of the most bombed airstrip in the world, Khe Sanh.

A year later when Neil returned home, he placed photos of Vietnam on the table and without Art telling him where the photos were taken, Art immediately recognized the brown dirt Khe Sanh airstrip photos, from the hills and mountains surrounding the airstrip. Neil felt his visit was a healing event for Arthur.

The Six Day War
In 1967, Arthur was assigned to be a diplomatic attache to the US Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. It was an accompanied tour with the Mavis family present.

"The Spy Who Loved Me" was Arthur's wife, Mary Ann, and "nobody did it better." She really was a spy, and the lyrics to the song sung by Carly Simon are a perfect fit for both Arthur & Mary Ann.

In 1967, Mary Ann hand-sewed every bead on this dress, and then wore it to official embassy parties in Baghdad, Iraq. Arthur was an Air Force attache there and Mary Ann worked the parties with him.
When Mary Ann walked into a room, everyone would stop and stare at her like a movie star, and the Intelligence Officers in the room would use her distraction to make their "drops".

Other than that, all Mom & Arthur told the kids that what they did in Baghdad was answer a phone; however, the Baghdad house did not have a phone, and only had running water, after midnight.

Because they were a blind date, and then married 66 years, the lyrics to the song sung by Carly Simon -- "The Spy Who Loved Me" -- fit each of them perfectly:

Nobody does it better
Makes me feel sad for the rest
Nobody does it half as good as you
Baby, you're the best
I wasn't lookin' but somehow you found me
It tried to hide from your love light
But like heaven above me
The spy who loved me
Is keepin' all my secrets safe tonight
And nobody does it better
Though sometimes I wish someone could
Nobody does it quite the way you do
Why'd you have to be so good?
The way that you hold me
Whenever you hold me
There's some kind of magic inside you
That keeps me from runnin'
But just keep it comin'
How'd you...
Source: LyricFind

They were in Bagdad only a month when the Six Day War started. Art came home and told Mary to evacuate the family, lose everything they owned, pack just one suitcase, and immediately take the family to the US embassy, to take a bus to Tehran, Iran. The three kids sat on the suitcase to help mom close it, and the kids remember Mary Ann sneaking three pillows on the bus for the long nighttime bus ride to Tehran over bumpy dirt roads.

Arthur said they lived in Tehran a few months until the military figured out what to do with them.

The Mavis family ended up in Ankara, Turkey on an assignment called TUSLOG.

Every time Arthur's son Neil asked Arthur what he did there for the USAF, Art always responded that he "answered a phone", and nothing more. Neil later learned from his mom that Dad was likely a spy, but the only secret Arthur revealed to Neil was the color of the phone he answered (Neil promised not to tell).

Dad retired from the USAF in 1973, and due to the winding down of the Vietnam War, resulting in the flood of pilots into the market, he could not get a job with the airlines, even with his designation as an Air Force One Pilot. He used the GI Bill to get an MBA, and a Master's Degree in Insurance from Georgia State. He then taught insurance classes for over 15 years for an insurance company.

The Big Secret at the insurance company was Dad's leadership: Dad bailed drunk student employees out of jail and helped them save their careers.

Out of town employees who were students in his insurance classes would party too much at night and get a DUI. They would call him to get bailed out of jail, and not get them fired. He must have used leadership skills that he learned at West Point to secretly scare them straight. l later learned that many of the DUI's that Dad bailed out, had straightened up and stayed with the insurance company, and made it a long career, thanks to Dad's discipline. They could have lost their job, and had their lives ruined, if Dad had not quietly set them straight.

Mom and Dad retired a second time, from the insurance industry, and spent the next 20 years helping build over 400 homes for Habitat for Humanity (HFH). They wintered in Vero Beach, FL, then helped at builds while chasing springtime north to Michigan and Wisconsin and south through Oklahoma while driving a huge motorhome, complete with slide outs, and towing a minivan full of cordless power tools. At HFH build sites, Dad would place over $3,500 worth of expensive cordless tool kits in a row, each kit with multiple batteries & chargers, connected to long power strips, and loan out every expensive tool. In 20 years, nothing was ever stolen.

Before jogging for exercise was cool, Arthur made his own running shoes before running shoes were popular. The family garage always smelled of shoe glue. Everywhere he lived, he ran three times a week. The neighborhood knew him as The Arthur who Ran. His pulse was so low that when he went in for an annual physical, they would call a Code Blue on him. Three years in a row, he witnessed teams of nurses' scramble through the medical exam room door with a charged-up defibrillator, surprised that Arthur was sitting upright.

Our family was concerned that if he got knocked out, say in a car accident, that he could me mistakenly diagnosed as having a heart attack. We had to make Arthur wear a medical bracelet and necklace that stated his normal pulse was only 45 beats per minute. The only thing that stopped him from running was old age.

As their health declined, they downsized from the motor home, to a van, then to a minivan, and finally to where they had to make the call that they made their last HFH build. Dad gave me a lot of his tools, and I when I use them at my home, I feel like Dad's love is there helping me with my home improvement project.

After over 60 years of marriage, Dad had to put Mom in nursing home in 2016 and would visit her 3 times a day to feed her. His health eventually declined to where he had to join her in the nursing home, and he continued to feed her at every mealtime, until her passing-away last year on September 14, 2019 after 66 years of marriage.

On Friday, August 28, 2020, the Long Grey Line of deceased West Point graduates are standing aside to welcome the most distinguished, newest member, and best Daddy in the world, my Dad, Arthur Mavis.

Dad's wisdom of flying was also his wisdom of life: there will always be turbulence. Even subtle turbulence. So, keep calm and relax.

Be not sad because Art's earthly course has run.
Be joyous because it happened and was well done.
Yes, very well done indeed!
Be thou at peace, dear Arthur / Art.
Drawn from The Alma Mater & Dr. Seuss

The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to your local Habitat for Humanity chapter.

Art was predeceased by Mary Ann, son Michael, daughter Michelle, and son Bruce.

Art is survived by son Neil and daughter Lisa.

On September 5, 2020, Art was laid to rest alongside Mary Ann and Bruce in Dawsonville Memorial Gardens, Dawsonville, Georgia.

CONTACTS: Art's family may be contacted through:

Neil Mavis
1611 South Utica Ave. #140
Tulsa, OK 74104-4909
Phone: (918) 645-1645
Email: neilmavis@gmail.com

On September 5, 2020, Art was laid to rest alongside Mary Ann and Bruce in Dawsonville Memorial Gardens, Dawsonville, Georgia.


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