NO. 17740 • 13 Nov 1926 - 2 Sep 2006
Died in Tampa, FL
Interred in Interred in Veterans National Cemetery, Bushnell, FL
August John "Gus" Dielens, Jr., was born in Bridgeton, NJ, but attended grammar and high school in the Philadelphia suburbs in Upper Darby, PA. After graduating from high school, he enrolled in the University of Miami, where he lettered in football in 1944. He decided to join the Army Air Corps in September 1944 and served two years in World War II. Then, one of Gus's dreams came true, and he was able to enter the United States Military Academy as a member of the Class of 1950.
As a cadet, Gus, or the "Goose" as some called him, captivated everyone with his smile. It was his wonderful athleticism, however, that earned him many awards. During a football game against Stanford on 4 Nov 1948, Gus suffered a fractured neck. The injury briefly slowed him down, but did not deter him from continuing in athletics. His First Class year he was ineligible to play for Army, but he stayed involved as an assistant football coach. He earned letters in football, track, basketball, and baseball, as well as the Major A in football. In addition to his athletic achievements, Gus also served as hop manager and was selected as a Cadet Captain.
Upon graduation from West Point, Gus joined the Infantry. He served proudly in combat in Korea with the 8th Cavalry Regiment, and, on 4 Feb 1951, he was wounded in action. After surgery, recuperation, and therapy, Gus returned to duty. He served in three wars, World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam and was awarded the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, and the Purple Heart. He was selected for the Senior Officer Army Aviation Flight Training Program. Although not qualified, he learned to fly the UH-1 Iroquois, CH-23 Raven, and OH-13 Sioux helicopters, under the supervision of a qualified aviator.
Shortly after graduation, Gus married Shirley Anne Rhodes, a former Miss Florida (1949), and they subsequently became the proud parents of three children, Deborah Anne, August John III, and Shirley Vandiver. Gus always described his tours of duty as rewarding, including tours at Ft. Benning, GA, Ismir, Turkey, Charleston, SC, Ft. Riley, KS, two tours in Korea, Ft. Leonard Wood, MO, and the Pentagon. He attended the Infantry School, Special Weapons and Nuclear Weapons courses, Command and General Staff College, Armed Forces Staff College, and the Army War College - just to name a few. His final assignment took him back to where it all began, to West Point, as athletic director. He was once again involved with one of his major loves, athletics.
Gus was always grateful to West Point and the Army for the education and the opportunities he was given throughout the first half of his life. It is said, though, that into each life some rain must fall, and so the rain fell into Gus's life. He retired as a colonel from the job he loved the most to return to Tampa, FL, for his family's sake. He accepted a position as athletic director of the University of Tampa, but just three years later, the university decided to eliminate their football program. It continued to rain when, in 1979, his beloved Shirley passed away after a courageous battle with cancer.
In 1981, the sun began to shine again when Gus married Ann, inherited three more children, and began the second half of his life.
Gus engendered love and esteem in those around him. His stepson recalled the first time he met Gus and described him as having an air of confidence he'd never seen before. Gus shared fascinating stories of his experiences in the Cadet Dining Hall at West Point, such as holding his chin down to his chest, to "make a second chin," and how to pass the salt and pepper.
Gus' stepson also remembered the day he enlisted in the Air Force. After going to an Air Force recruiter's office, he was afraid his mother would be upset that he had joined the Air Force without first consulting her. Instead, Gus went out and bought the thickest steaks he had ever seen to celebrate. His stepson realized that Gus was proud of him, a memory he would carry with him all his life. The confidence and pride that Gus had in himself, he also instilled in his stepson.
When Gus retired, Ann said she had a hard time convincing Gus it was not necessary to move every two years. She finally won him over, however, when they purchased a home on die 12th green in Lakeland, FL. They went out in the evenings in the golf cart, and Gus could practice putting and Ann could fish. It was wonderful; the ponds had large mouth bass and there were alligators on the golf course. Gus learned to fish and to sail. He also learned why there are channel markers, but only after he spent the night out in the Gulf of Mexico. The best part though, was that Gus worked for Ann for 16 years.
In 25 years with Ann he learned that, even though he was a veteran, he could still help other veterans. He volunteered at the VA Hospital and at the MacDill Air Force Base Pharmacy once a week, as well as working for Ann, who was the Florida State Secretary/Treasurer for the Ladies Auxiliary for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Gus deposited many, many checks for hospitalized veterans, for homeless veterans, for telephone calling cards for our servicemen overseas, and for children of deceased veterans.
Gus continued to play golf until he physically could no longer play, but he never lost his smile or his winning way with all he met. We will always remember his smile, which would light up the room, and his infectious laugh, which would chase away the gloom. Then God called him home, and with sadness we parted. But memories of Gus will always linger in our hearts.
-- His wife and stepson