DUNWOODY, Ga. — On December 7, 1941, bombs fell across Pearl Harbor. Garrie Phillips watched as planes flew by, knowing that her husband of just two months was at the base, in danger.
Tom Crayton was in a submarine that day conducting a mine-sweep, which Phillips didn’t have a good feeling about from the start. But Crayton survived. He watched all the action happening around him, she said, but he survived.
Garrie Phillips turns 100 years old on July 10, and she still remembers her first husband with love and clarity.
Unfortunately, Crayton didn’t make it through the end of World War II — not because of wounds suffered on the battlefield. Crayton, she said, was known as the type of guy who would step in and interrupt a fight and convince everyone to get along.
He would see a few men arguing, offer them drinks and get them to talk it out rather than using their fists, Phillips said. On a last round trip to China from Hawaii a few years later, her husband stopped in Okinawa for a night. While at a bar, he saw a man getting beaten up by a few sailors, Phillips said.
He tried to break up the fight, like he normally would, but this time the sailors would not heed his mediation or his offers of drinks on him.
“When he tried to intervene and calm things down they jumped on him,” Phillips said. “They knocked him up against the wall of the building, and he hit his head on the ledge of the building and had the brain concussion. And he died right there.”
Phillips was raising their 28-day-old daughter at the time.
Her husband told her before joining the military that if anything were to happen to him, he wanted to be buried in a military cemetery
“My mind was blank,” Phillips said. “I didn’t know of a military cemetery closer to North Carolina than Arlington.”
Phillips saw to it that Crayton’s body was transported to his mother in North Carolina, the same place where they first met and grew up.
From that time on, she devoted much of the rest of her life working for organizations that support military personnel, veterans or their families. She worked for the Navy Exchange, the American Legion and the Fleet Reserve.
Phillips is a resident and ambassador for Dogwood Forest of Dunwoody, where she still gets around well, aided by a walker. The staff is planning a special birthday celebration for her.
“I guess that’s pretty good for an old woman,” she said.