Milo Cumpston, 86, who served on Iwo Jima, Japan, as a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps and who spent much of the last several years ensuring there will be enough room for veterans to be buried in the Fayetteville National Cemetery, died Thursday morning at his home in Butterfield Trail Village.
Marine veteran Milo Cumpston holds a portrait of him with his grandson, Travis, on May 23 at his apartment in Fayetteville. The World War II veteran passed away Thursday morning.
Photo by Brooke McNeely, Northwest Arkansas Times
He is to be buried in the Fayetteville National Cemetery with full honors.
When asked about Cumpston as a father, Jeff Cumpston said, "He was a very attentive father."
The brothers on Thursday were reading some large index cards with instructions from their father on how the three of them were to conduct themselves before a trip with their mother.
"It's some fatherly advice. He wrote it on four large index cards," Jeff Cumpston said.
Some of the advice included to treat their mother like a queen, think ahead, stand when a lady enters, shake hands with a firm grip and "don't be afraid to show your emotions."
"He wanted to make sure that we held ourselves right and did right by our mother," Jeff Cumpston said.
"He always celebrated their wedding anniversary monthly," he said. "That's the kind of esteem he held for their marriage and in my mom." The two were married for 54 years.
In addition to serving on Iwo Jima, Cumpston served in Pusan, Korea. During an interview last year, Cumpston talked about his time in the U.S. Marine Corps and said "once a Marine, always a Marine." His allegiance to the Marine Corps and veterans was a major part of his life's work. He was a charter member of the Northwest Arkansas Marine Corps League.
"I think around here the thing he would be most well known for was his work with the national cemetery," Jeff Cumpston said. He was a charter member of the Regional National Cemetery Improvement Corp., which was organized to aid in the expansion of the Fayetteville National Cemetery. The mission of the group is to secure land adjacent to the national cemetery and deed the land to the cemetery to ensure the it can continue to receive veterans for burial.
Cumpston was one of the founders of the organization about 20 years ago. He served as vice president all of that time and was serving in that capacity when he died.
Prior to his military involvement during World War II, Cumpston graduated from Dewey High School. One of his civilian jobs prior to joining the Marines was as an iron worker. He was a member of that union. After the war, he eventually got a job with Arabian American Oil Co., going to work in Saudi Arabia, where he met Norma, who was teaching children of American employees there. He spent 34 years in Saudi Arabia. The family bought a house on Bois de Arc Lane in Fayetteville and lived there for several years before moving to Butterfield Trail Village.
When he was interviewed about Iwo Jima, he said that the heroes "are the ones we left behind."
"Milo was well-loved here," said Bruce Schaffer, cemetery work leader at the Fayetteville National Cemetery. Schaffer said there was definitely a somber mood at the cemetery Thursday. He talked of Cumpston's work with the Regional National Cemetery Improvement Corp. "Of course, his mission was to see us get land and, fortunately, we had just gotten some new property turned over to us right before he passed away," Schaffer said. "He would have liked to see this whole thing through," he said of the future expansion plans. "He at least knew that that was going to extend the life of the cemetery property north of the cemetery." Much expansion already had been done, largely due to Cumpston's and the corporation's efforts. "When I started here in 1989, we were down to 16 grave sites," Schaffer said. "Through their efforts, it doubled the size of the cemetery. "That was his main focus. You wouldn't believe the time that he gave to ensuring that veterans didn't have to go outside of Fayetteville to be interred." Schaffer said Cumpston "was like a father figure."
Roger McClain, of Springdale, president of the Regional National Cemetery Improvement Corp., said he had known Cumpston for almost 20 years. "Milo was a dedicated person, and he worked tirelessly for the RNCIC to try to get donations where we could buy land and deed it over to the government," McClain said. He called Cumpston the "backbone of this organization."
McClain said that when he was elected president of the organization, he and Cumpston had an agreement: Cumpston told him he would do all of the legwork for McClain "because that's what kept him going. He enjoyed that. He got to get out and meet people. I would say he just lived and breathed it, and he will be missed."
Originally printed on Friday, April 10, 2009. Northwest Arkansas Times.