Colonel Van Barfoot passes away at 92

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) -- A living legend of World War Two, a man who would not back down from a fight -- Col. Van Thurman Barfoot has died. The decorated war hero and Henrico resident was 92-years-old. His family tells us Col. Barfoot died Friday morning, after suffering head injuries from a fall earlier this week. His son spoke with us tonight about his dad.

"He just had a zest for life and apparently he didn't fear for anything. It's just incredible," said Col. Barfoot's son Jim Barfoot.

Extra-ordinary heroism, magnificent valor, aggressive determination...who can forget the guy who would not take down the American flag at his Henrico County home.

"To tell me that I can't fly that now, after...90 years, is a little bit, more than I can really just sit back and take it," Col. Barfoot said in 2009.

Van Thurman Barfoot, at 90, defied fierce opposition from the Sussex Square Homeowners Association.  Rules said the flag could be flown on a house mounted bracket but Barfoot's 21 foot flagpole was socially unsuitable for aesthetic reasons. He erected it anyway and faced court action.

Barfoot's fight made national headlines. The White House even heard about it. The association reconsidered and allowed decorated career colonel to fly his flag how he wanted.

"I raise the American flag each morning and hope everyone will understand what flying the flag means to me," said Col. Barfoot.

Barfoot made news much early in life when at age 25 in WWII on a battlefield in Italy, the then Tech Sergeant set out alone to stop deadly attacks on fellow soldiers from Germans. The veteran of three wars demonstrated Herculean efforts on the battlefield. He's credited with capturing and bringing back 17 German prisoners of war. His bravery in battle earned him the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest recognition, and an honorable place in American history.

"Faith, family and then the country. A lot of people tell us your dad is a war hero. But, he's just a hero to us," Jim said. 

Barfoot is one of five Native American Indians to ever receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.

His family tells us, Col. Barfoot tripped near his front door and hit his head on some bricks. Then, when he went to the hospital, the family found out Col. Barfoot fractured his skull and was bleeding in the brain -- and the chances of survival were slim. He died a few days later, with his entire family surrounding him.

The following is a statement from Roger Nicholls, Mr. Barfoot's son. "Dear friends, Dad passed peacefully this morning. We are so thankful for your love and support. If you would like to honor him a contribution to the Sitter-Barfoot Veteran's Care Center 1601 Broad Rock Blvd Richmond VA 23224 would be a blessing. Sincerely, Tom, Margaret, Odell and Jim his children."

His children tell us the family will receive guests, from two to four, and six to eight, this Sunday, at Bliley Funeral Home, on Augusta Avenue. Col. Barfoot's private funeral will be in Matthews County.

If you'd like to see more of our interview with his family, click here 

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