Former Springfield City Councilmember & Mayor Pro Tem and World War II Veteran Ralph Manley has died.
Manley was 95.
Manley served on the Springfield City Council for ten years before his sudden resignation in April 2009, when he announced he would be leaving for France for World War II memorial events and would be moving out of the city upon his return.
Manley joined the military in 1942, halfway through his senior year in high school. He was trained in demolition espionage and parachute infantry. He was deployed to Europe in January 1944 with the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment.
He was on a plane with 18 other paratroopers on D-Day, June 6, 1944, that was struck by German anti-aircraft rounds as they crossed the French coastline. Manley was one of only 5 soldiers to make it out of the plane and fought the Germans for the next six weeks.
During his military service to the country, Manley received five purple hearts and two bronze stars and reached the rank of Master Sergeant.
During his time on City Council and in serving in other ways in the Springfield area, Manley was known for his jovial attitude and love of the city.
“We will forever remember his public leaps of joy and his never-ending optimism,” Springfield’s public information officer Cora Scott posted on Facebook.
In his resignation letter from Council in 2009, Manley called it an honor to serve the city.
“I plan to leave for France in May. My wife of 58 years passed away one year ago. Things have changed. I will be moving outside the Springfield city limits when I return,” he wrote. “I have tried to dedicate all my energy and knowledge and time to this city without any pay or compensation. I am grateful for the opportunity to have served this great city.”
“Ralph served as a member of Council from 1999-2009, he is known for his exuberant enthusiasm about this city,” Mayor Ken McClure said during City Council’s Monday meeting. “Just last week we had members from our sister city Tlaquepaque, Mexico and one of them said said ‘I have a memento from an earlier visit’ and pulled out a silver dollar for which Ralph was well known.”
Manley routinely handed out silver dollars to citizens and visitors because of the image of President Eisenhower on the coin. Manley had tremendous respect for Eisenhower.
Manley has been living in the Missouri Veterans Home in Mount Vernon for the last few years and had reportedly been recently in fading health.
“Councilman Manley inspired us with his military service & continued to lift others up in public office,” former Springfield City Council member Justin Burnett said on social media. “Members of council share a special bond & council members can look to Councilman Manley’s life for inspiration & wisdom. A Springfield icon & American hero. We will miss him.”
Manley ended his Council resignation letter with a statement that could sum up much of his feelings about the city of Springfield.
“Please accept my heartfelt thanks to all who allowed me to serve this city. God bless you. Ralph K. Manley.”