South Sider and WWII hero would have turned 89 today

For 10 months during World War II, Lester McCafferty’s home was Stalag IV-B, a German bunker where he was held as a prisoner of war, along with about 400 others. The Army officer and his fellow captives were also housed with dogs.

“I got one meal a day, pea soup,” he recalled of his capture in a 2002 interview with the Chicago Defender. “If I got a good German guard, I got the peas. If I didn’t, I got the pea water. I rode eight days in a box car.”

McCafferty died on May 22, just a week before Memorial Day. He was 88 years old and was the last living black P.O.W. in the Chicago area. His funeral took place May 29 on the South Side. He enlisted in the Army after graduating high school, serving from 1943 to 1945, including being captured by the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge. McCafferty was kept in a wire compound with the other prisoners and canines.

His weight dropped to 100 pounds when he was rescued by Russian forces, suffering from hepatitis, among other diseases. After his rescue, the Russians kept him locked up for two months for profit-for each American they turned over, they received $1. McCafferty recalled maybe a couple other black P.O.W.’s but that he was last survivor.

Lester McCafferty was born and raised in Bronzeville on June 10, 1921. Today would have been his 89th birthday. He worked for 30 years at a wholesale hardware company before retiring as a supply clerk. He is survived by his wife of 67 years, Lillian, five children and several family and friends.

One of Illinois’ oldest residents dies at age 108

Mary Magalene Pullins was among the roughly 1 million black Americans traveling north during the Great Migration in the early 1930s. The elder died on Friday May 21 in her South Side home at age 108. She was among the oldest living Illinois residents. Pullins spent many years as a union organizer at U.S. Steel. Her son, Richard Pegue Sr., was a Chicago police officer and Gold Star winner, one of the first blacks to receive the honor after getting killed in the line of duty. Her grandson, the late Richard Pegue Jr., was a WVON radio host and is a Radio hall of famer. She’s also the aunt of West Side pastor Marshall Hatch.

Mary Magalene Pullins was born on July 3, 1901. During World War II, she worked with other women in manufacturing, producing munitions and other war supplies for U.S. soldiers. In 2008, she cast her vote for Barack Obama, one of the oldest living voters to do so at the time. The president and First Lady sent Pullins a signed designation for that achievement.

Her funeral was May 28 on the South Side.