PORTLAND, Ore. - Howard V. Ramsey, Oregon's last living World War I veteran, died in his sleep Thursday at age 108.
Sandra Linnell, one of Ramsey's two granddaughters, said he spoke of his service with pride.
"He was a driver," she said. "He said there wasn't many people who drove, so that was his job. He knew how to drive."
Ramsey, an Army corporal in France, was a truck driver who ferried officers, carried water to troops on the front lines and returned the bodies of soldiers killed in battle.
By some accounts he was the nation's oldest surviving combat veteran.
Ramsey resided in an assisted living center in Southeast Portland.
As of a year ago the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimated there were fewer than 50 veterans of the war still alive in the United States.
Other estimates are much lower. Some say he was one of just seven WWI veterans left in the U.S.
Ramsey was mentioned in a 2005 speech by Vice President Dick Cheney commemorating the 75th anniversary of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
"I recently read the story of a gentleman from Oregon named Howard Ramsey, who when he tried to get into the Army as a youth was rejected for being underweight, " Cheney said.
"But he wasn't the kind of kid who gave up easily. Instead he went out and stuffed himself with water and bananas, and then showed up to be weighed again. This time the Army took him, and before long he was in Europe fighting for his country.
"Corporal Ramsey was on the battlefield in France when word arrived of the armistice."
Ramsey was born in Rico, Colo., in 1898 and graduated from Washington High School in Portland in 1916. While in high school, he joined the Naval Militia and enlisted in the Army later that year.
He returned to Portland around 1920 and worked for Hudson-Essex (later Hudson Motor Car Company). In 1922 he went to work for Western Electric (later AT&T) and retired in 1963 at the age of 65.
He married Hilda Epling in 1923 in Los Angeles. They had one daughter.
According to Wikipedia, one of Ramsey's fondest memories of the French was when a little French girl asked him for a souvenir one day as he was waiting to take an officer somewhere.
He told the girl he didn't have anything to give her but eventually ended up handing over a penny. In return, she gave him a gift wrapped in tissue, which ended up being a lock of her curly hair.
He kept that lock of hair until his death, according to the Wikipedia entry.
Funeral arrangements are pending.