Col. J. Shelton Scales was a war hero, but he principally was remembered Saturday as a wonderful father and grandfather.
Scales, a retired Marine Corps colonel who survived the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II, died May 27 at King’s Grant Retirement Community at the age of 97. He was retired from the insurance field and active in the community for many years.
A memorial service was held Saturday at Forest Hills Presbyterian Church in Martinsville, where Scales was a charter member and elder.
Scales and his wife, the late Mary Stacy Crockett Scales, had four children, two of whom spoke at the service, along with Scales’ grandson Austin Scales.
Scales youngest son, Phil Scales, said that his father had a lifelong love of gaining knowledge, which he likely had inherited from his mother, a former teacher.
“He liked to share knowledge,” Phil Scales said. “He loved the outside, and as a child we took many trips up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and different areas. It always amazed me how he would go and point out trees, birds, shrubs ... he knew all the names, and he tried to impart that to all of us children.”
Phil Scales said his father took it upon himself to teach all four of his children how to read, and every morning before school — even when they were in high school — he read to them for 15 minutes, everything from the Bible to Moby Dick.
“If you’ve ever read Moby Dick, the first 250 pages are about the dryest reading (imaginable),” Phil Scales joked. “I revolted. I’m sure my brother, who was much more of an intellectual than I was, was just soaking it up.”
His father, Phil Scales said, was a master storyteller and joke-teller, a fact known to everyone who encountered him. Roughly 25 years ago, Phil Scales said, Shelton Scales recorded an oral history of his life, from his earliest childhood memories through his military service in World War II, and gave copies of the audio to his children.
Shelton Scales’ Marine Corps training instilled in him several qualities that he also tried to pass on to his children, Phil Scales said, such as a love of physical fitness and punctuality.
As a child, he said, “I was up with my brothers at 6:30 in the morning doing calisthenics.”
Also, Phil Scales said, his father had an oft-repeated catchphrase when it came to punctuality: “If you’re late, you’re wasting somebody else’s time.”
When he was a child, Phil Scales said, his father was not one to show a great deal of emotion.
“My father wasn’t much on telling us that he loved us,” Phil Scales said. “He didn’t need to, because his actions spoke louder than words. He treated us very well, and it was great to be his son.”
However, he said, “In the last five or six years, when I would come visit at King’s Grant, and I would get ready to leave ... he would always look me right in the eye and tell me that he loved me.”
In an open letter, Austin Scales said he is proud to have inherited many qualities from his grandfather.
“Your zeal for learning and the enjoyment you received from the anticipation of discovery served you well,” Austin Scales read. “These are qualities I am proud to have inherited. Indeed, I am proud to say that many of my best qualities I have inherited from you.”
“Your charm, your wit, your rugged good looks ... ,” he added, to the laughter of the audience.
Austin Scales described his grandfather as a self-assured man of honor and integrity who loved his family deeply.
“I will strive to seek out those qualities in myself which I have seen and admired in you,” Austin Scales read. “I will seek to stand as a living testimony to the goodness and decency you passed on to your children and grandchildren.”
In an example of Shelton Scales’ sense of humor, his son Kemp “Kit” Scales told the story of a workout routine that his father adopted later in his life, when he wanted to remain active yet had to tone down the vigor of his exercise.
The exercise routine, Kemp Scales said, had three stages, according to his father. In the first stage, he would take a 5-pound potato sack in each hand and attempt to lift them with his arms held straight out. Once he had lifted them, he would hold them level for 10 seconds.
In the second stage, Kemp Scales said, his father said he would take two 10-pound potato sacks and hold them out straight for 10 seconds in the same fashion.
Finally, Kemp Scales said, in the last stage of the workout, his father would add a potato to each sack.
Kemp Scales ended by reading a poem his father had written for his mother. The poem had been found in a sealed envelope, Kemp Scales said, with a note saying that his mother was not to open the envelope until after Shelton Scales’ death.
Stacy Scales preceded her husband in death.
The last lines of the poem read: “And when you hear a song or see a bird or smell a flower I love/Please do not let the thought of me be sad/For I am loving you just as I always have/You were so good to me/There were so many things I wanted still to do/So many things to say to you/Remember that I did not fear/
It was just leaving you that was so hard to face/We cannot see beyond, but this I know: I love you so/‘Twas heaven here with you.”