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Jean Besson  Adams

Obituary for Jean Besson Adams

December 20, 1919 - February 2, 2019
Austin, Texas | Age 99


Jean Sharp Besson was born on December 20, 1919, at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, DC. Her father and both of her brothers graduated from West Point and were career Army officers, and the West Point motto, "Duty, Honor, Country," was equally their household motto. Ultimately, several of her father's tours of duty made Washington her home for most of her childhood. After graduating from high school in D.C., She attended the Ogontz School in Philadelphia, graduating in 1939 as salutatorian.

Her husband, Milton B. Adams, also graduated from West Point (1939) as had his father and both grandfathers. The Army was small in those days so everyone knew each other. Jean first met Milt on the front porch of her family house in Galveston where both her and Milt's parents were stationed. Upon graduation from West Point, Milt was sent to flight training school, first at Love Field in Dallas and then at Kelly Field in San Antonio where he received his wings in 1940. Milt was then transferred to the Caribbean while Jean went to visit her brother, Bob, and his wife who were stationed in the Philippines. When the military evacuated all dependents in June of 1941, she returned to the US with her brother's family. The war began early December 1941, and her brother was captured before Christmas. He was sent to prison camp in Japan where he remained until the end of the war. He was one of the first to be captured and the last to be freed.

In 1942, the government formed the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) to provide administrative assistance for the Army, making more men available to fight. The first Director of the WAAC was Oveta Culp Hobby, and her assistant, Helen Gruber, was in turn a friend of Jean's family. Together, Helen and her parents encouraged Jean to join. Because her brother had been captured, it took little encouragement for Jean to join and do her part. She entered the second WAAC officer candidate class in July of 1942 at the Fort Des Moines Provisional Army Officer Training School in Iowa. Upon graduation Jean was appointed commander of the following officer's candidate class.

When Milt returned from duty in the Caribbean, he came to visit her in Des Moines and proposed marriage. In 1943, Jean was transferred to the Pentagon where She worked for Helen Gruber at WAAC HQs. Milt and Jean were married in June of 1943 in Washington, D.C. Because of gas rationing, the wedding was scheduled for 5:30 PM so friends could attend on their way home from work. The ceremony took place at St. Matthews so guests could walk to the Army-Navy Club for the reception to further conserve fuel. At their wedding, Jean wore the white WAAC dress uniform, the first time it had been worn in public. A photograph of their wedding was sent over the wires throughout the country in hopes of encouraging other women to join the WAAC.

After their wedding, Jean requested a transfer to California where Milt was posted. Because her request was denied, she declined to re-enlist when the WAAC was converted to full status within the Army as the Women's Army Corps (WAC). The Army later approved her transfer request and offered her a promotion if she would stay. But Jean had already committed to join Milt in California as his wife. Alas, it was only a few short months before Milt was transferred to the Pacific. As commander of a P-38 fighter wing, he flew 275 combat missions and was there for 22 months.

After Milt left for the Pacific, Jean joined her parents at Camp Abbott in Bend, Oregon, where her father, Col. Frank S. Besson, was commanding the new training center for combat engineers. While there, she took a job as the service club hostess, supervising the club for enlistees in the engineering section. Each month she put her entire paycheck into war bonds.

When the war finally ended, Milt and Jean were stationed in Arizona where their first child, Mary, was born. In 1947 they were transferred to Tehran, Iran, where Milt was Advisor to the Imperial Iranian Air Force. They lived in Iran for two and half years where their second child, Milton Jr.(a.k.a. Mitts), was born. Tehran was a beautiful city that had yet to be modernized. They very much enjoyed living there and took advantage of the location by traveling to India, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

By the time they left Iran, the Army Air Corps had transitioned to being the US Air Force, and their next assignment, beginning in early 1949, was Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, where their next two children, John and Jeannie, were born. Milt began as a student in the Air War College and upon graduation was assigned a faculty position. Jean played a lot of golf and was president of the officer's wives club. Their next post was in Washington, D.C., where Milt attended the National War College at Ft. Meyer. From there they went to Laredo Air Force Base (TX) where, for two years, Milt was commander of the Jet Fighter Flying School. Their fifth child, Frank, a.k.a Pancho, was born in Laredo. There Jean again enjoyed golf and the wives club. Following Laredo, they returned to Williams AFB in Arizona and then on once again to Washington, D.C. for a posting at the Pentagon.

In 1962, Milt was assigned to MACV (Military Advisory Command Vietnam) Headquarters in Saigon, as Assistant Chief of Staff for Plans under Gen. William Westmoreland. When the family followed Milt to Saigon in February 1963, they found a completely new living experience. The boys had the run of the town on their mopeds, and their home was used for showing movies to large groups of dependents on Friday nights. The family was blessed with the opportunity to visit Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, and Hong Kong during their stay in Viet Nam. In addition, they had the unique and harrowing experience of living through several coup d'├ętats, which included having tanks stationed on the corners of their street and watching tracer machine gun fire fly over their rooftop. When it was all over, they were happy to learn that all of their friends were safe and unharmed. In February of 1965, all dependents were evacuated from Saigon.

Assignments following Vietnam included tours back to the Washington D.C. area, Shaw AFB in South Carolina, and Hawaii. They were in Hawaii for four years where Milt was chief of staff for Headquarters Pacific Air Forces. Again Jean enjoyed golf and working with the wives club.

Milt retired from the Air Force at the rank of Major General in 1972, and settled to Laredo, Texas, where they enjoyed hunting, fishing, and golf as well as new and old friends. Milt worked for the greater Laredo Redevelopment Authority and was the major figure behind the development of the Laredo Country Club. In August 2007, they left Laredo for Austin and the Querencia retirement community. They made many new friends at Querencia and became avid bridge players. Milt died in 2009 and Jean continued life at Querencia, supported by her large group of friends. Jean passed away in Austin on February 2, 2019. She will be remembered for her big smile, sense of humor and kindness to everyone. Her first love, after the Good Lord, was to be with her extended family, followed by bridge, travel, golf and a busy social schedule.

Jean is survived by three of her five children - Mary, Mitts and Pancho and daughters-in-law Marilyn and Ann; nine grandchildren - Mary, Melissa, Stacy, Elizabeth, Caroline, Brian, Cari, John and Jocelyn; and ten great grandchildren - Ryan, Audrey, Olivia, Alex, Kaya, Pierce, Rhett, Evan, Eloise, Mack Hardin and Scarlett.

The following celebrations of Jean's life will be held:

Rosary: 7 pm Friday, February 8th at St. John Neumann Catholic Church

Service: 2 pm Saturday, February 9th at St. John Neumann Catholic Church

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Arrangements By

Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home South

2620 S. Congress Ave
Austin, TX 78704
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