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Mary Elmira Buster Dies At 109

Mary Elmira Buster, the oldest Legion veteran member in the state, passed away Monday in Lynchburg. She was 109.

Petite, vibrant, articulate, the 109-year-old Nathalie native belied her years for years.

Always the independent woman, Buster volunteered to help the Army get mail to soldiers in war zones during World War II despite the dangers.

A service for the World War II Army veteran will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. at New Shiloh Baptist Church in Nathalie with the Rev. Sylvester Crawley officiating.

Burial with full military honors provided by American Legion Post 99 will follow in the church cemetery.

This week, Buster was being remembered as an inspiration to others.

Last year American Legion Post 99 and its auxiliary unit honored the centenarian for her years of service to God and country.

“You are an inspiration to all of us,” Post 99 Commander Frank Carr told Buster during that ceremony.

Buster, who served in England and France four years during WW II, became a volunteer for a quasi-WAC division when the Army sought volunteers. She would muster out as Master Sergeant.

“Many nights they were blacked out because of enemy air raids,” said Auxiliary Unit 99 Treasurer Ruth Cole. “Their work was essential to the morale of the soldiers. We owe her a debt of gratitude for her service to our country.”

For years after the war, the petite warrior continued to serve as a role model.

“She had a love of God and a zest for life people my age don’t have,” added Cole. “She was always very independent. She loved her country, and I never heard her say a bad thing about it. Some people complain, she didn’t. And she had no regrets. I am in such awe of the things she’s done. It’s always been God and country.”

For Buster, who lived about 50 yards from her childhood home in the northern part of the county, life’s journey personified an independent spirit.

As a girl she attended an academy in Lynchburg for high school.

Later, when she could not find a job in the area, she joined her brother who was living in Philadelphia. There, she took and passed an exam to begin working for the Navy. She was working for the Navy when she responded to the call for volunteers to help with mail service during W.W.II.

One of nine children, Buster was a daughter the late Rev. Thomas Buster and Mary Ann Buster.

There were four males and five females in the family. Buster was the 10th child with the first one passing away.

She  and two of her brothers served in the nation’s wars. Her brothers served in both W.W.I and W.W.II. One brother, who served in France in W.W.I, was gassed, but he lived to return home. All three Busters continued careers in the Armed Services or government service following war duties.

“People tend to forget sacrifices people made over their lives,” Cole said. “They (that generation) had so much courage.

“I am thankful for those who went on before me, and I was able to listen to their stories and draw from them,” added Cole, whose family also has a long military history.

Longevity was a family trait of the Busters, with one of Mary’s late sisters celebrating a 107th birthday and a brother marking his 100th year.

They all grew up on the family farm in the northern part of Halifax County, and she was a member of the New Shiloh Baptist Church in Nathalie.

“She was the last one,” Cole said yesterday speaking of the Buster siblings.

She is survived by one sister-in-law, Mrs. Emma J. Buster of Nathalie, and many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

Those who knew her best said they always will remember her devoted “love of God,” her independence, her humble attitude and marvelous disposition, characteristics that inspired others on life’s journey.