Earl Nealis Plankers, 97, World War II veteran who helped start GE manufacturing plant in Castle Hayne

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Earl Nealis Plankers
Earl Nealis Plankers

Earl Nealis Plankers, 97, died Friday, May 20, 2016.

‘Until Death, it is all Life.’ Cervantes.

From a childhood on the streets of St. Paul, Minn., to retirement in Wilmington, Earl filled his 97 years of life. An accomplished artist and wood carver, nearly scratch golfer, devoted husband, gentle father and grandfather, he was a consummate gentleman who never met a stranger.

Earl left St. Paul in January 1941 when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. A combat veteran, he accompanied convoys in the North Atlantic, chased submarines in the Caribbean, and fought kamikazes in the battle for Okinawa. In January 1942, while on a pass in Boston, he married the love of his life, Ruth Bernice Reiland, who took the train from St. Paul to marry Earl in the rectory of a Boston church. Earl shipped out for the North Atlantic, and Bernice went home to St. Paul. Their marriage lasted 52 years, until Bernice’s untimely death in June 1994.

After the war, Earl and Bernice moved to the West Coast, where Earl started with General Electric at Hanford, Wash. His career carried him and his family to San Jose, Calif., and in 1968, to Wilmington to help start up the new GE manufacturing plant in Castle Hayne. Wilmington became his home. He was active in the Reactor Club, the company golf and softball leagues, and he acted in Thalian productions. Earl enjoyed the company of family and friends at social occasions, and in Bridge and bowling leagues.

A devout Catholic convert, Earl and his family joined St. Mary Church when they arrived in Wilmington. He was an usher for many years and a regular at the 5:30 Saturday Gospel Choir Mass.

Earl is survived by his sons, Thomas Earl Plankers, and spouse, Bari, of Myrtle Beach and Timothy Peter Plankers, and wife, Cindy, of Castle Hayne; and daughter, Judith Plankers Funderburk, and husband, Ray, of Wilmington. He was particularly proud of his six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A gathering of family and friends will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, May 26, at Coble Ward-Smith Funeral Service. A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, May 27, at the Basilica Shrine of St. Mary with Father Bob Kus officiating. Military honors will follow the funeral Mass.

The family would like to thank Autumn Care’s dedicated employees, Priscilla, Tameka, Monica, Tara, Erin, Matt, Connie, ‘Brown Sugar’ Joe, Nastassia, Monika and Tiffany

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Cape Fear Hospice.

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