Arnett C. Powers Jr., 80, adjutant for the Veterans of Foreign Wars

August 04, 2002|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

Arnett C. Powers Jr., Maryland's second-highest Veterans of Foreign Wars official for four years, died of congestive heart failure Wednesday at his home in Bel Air. He was 80.

A World War II veteran, Mr. Powers was state adjutant for the VFW from 1985 to 1989, running the administrative end of an organization that at the time served 38,000 veterans.

Mr. Powers was a computer buff from the days when the machines took up whole rooms, and he brought that expertise to VFW headquarters in Baltimore, said Mike Mason, who as state VFW commander in 1985 appointed him to the post.

"He was responsible for bringing computers into the department headquarters," Mr. Mason said. "He's the one that got it started. ... He was deep into it. As I recall, he brought his own computer in. I don't even think we bought one right away."

Mr. Powers grew up in Point Pleasant, W. Va., where he traveled less than a week before his death to attend his 62nd high school reunion, said his wife, the former Jean L. Jenkins, whom he married in 1976.

After graduation, Mr. Powers joined the Army and served in Europe during World War II, his wife said. He was present at the Battle of the Bulge, she said.

After the war, Mr. Powers attended the University of Florida in Gainesville and re-enlisted after graduation. He served in Korea after the Korean War and he also served in posts from Alaska to Texas.

He was last stationed at Edgewood Arsenal. He retired in 1968 with the rank of major and went to work for many years as a civil servant at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Outgoing and interested in theater, Mr. Powers acted in some plays at the proving ground and directed a choir while stationed in Alaska.

His main passion was veterans affairs - whether he was marching in a Memorial Day parade in his dress uniform, talking to a class of middle school pupils or pushing for better medical benefits as vice chairman of the Harford County Commission on Veterans Affairs, his wife said.

Mr. Powers served on the 12-year-old commission almost since its start and was its vice chairman for the past eight years, said Chairman Blair Cross. He helped establish a program that sends veterans into local schools to talk about their service.

"Arnett just felt that it was important that the children have some knowledge and experience on war issues and how, what we always say, war is hell," Mr. Cross said. "The children don't have a chance to learn from textbooks what war is really all about."

Mr. Powers had been a member of the VFW for only a few years when Mr. Mason appointed him adjutant.

"Usually you appoint somebody in a major position like that who's got 10, 15 years in the organization, and they know the bylaws inside and out, and he didn't," Mr. Mason said.

But Mr. Powers' strong administrative and computer background made him Mr. Mason's top choice.

"He was very intelligent, very particular with everything he did, very precise," Mr. Mason said. "If you can find a stronger word than `outstanding,' use it."

Services were yesterday at the Bel Air Memorial Gardens Mausoleum Chapel.

Mr. Arnett is also survived by a son, Arnett Powers III of Aberdeen; two stepsons, Robert Holley of Bel Air and Scott Holley of Whiteford; and a granddaughter.

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