Maj. Gen. Stanley Newman wasn’t much into marketing. Or ego.
As a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps, he flew 57 missions during World War II. For his service, he earned many honors, including a pair of Distinguished Flying Crosses. In spite of a life deserving of superlatives, he bristled at labels he deemed hyperbolic.
“We’re a great generation,” he said in a 2012 interview. “But we’re not the greatest. How about Valley Forge in the American Revolution? How about Antietam or Gettysburg?”
That “greatest generation” label affixed to folks of his vintage, he said, came about like so many catchphrases. “We just got better publicity.”
For those who knew Maj. Gen. Newman, his modesty was hardly surprising.
When a group from OMRF met the longtime Oklahoma City resident in 2021 – we were featuring him in a publication for a track record of giving that stretched back to 1948 – he shrugged off his military title. “Just call me old Stan, Thunder fan,” he said with a smile.
Maj. Gen. Newman was 97 at the time. He passed away in April, four months shy of what would have been his 100th birthday.
He’d answered the call to service while an undergraduate at the University of Illinois. When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, “Some guy at one of the fraternity houses came out and started blowing a bugle,” recalled Newman. “It was like the Pied Piper. We all just sort of went and marched through the streets.”
The next morning, he went down to the local Navy recruiter to enlist. The recruiter convinced the teenager to hold off until graduation, at which point he promptly enrolled in flight training. That began a military flying career that spanned three wars – World War II, Korea and Vietnam – and 41 years.
He flew more than 150 combat missions. Yet he’s best remembered for one in which he spared his foe.
On the final night of World War II, Newman got into a dogfight with a German plane. Knowing the war likely soon would end, “I didn’t really want to shoot him down,” said Newman. In the teeth of fire from the German fighter, Newman managed to bring down the enemy aircraft in one piece. It landed softly, and safely, in a field.
“When I came around, he was out of the cockpit, shaking his fist,” remembered Newman, who was Jewish.
A fellow congregant at Temple B’nai Israel in Oklahoma City recalls that the two former combatants met years later for a peaceful reunion.
“I could have killed him really easily,” Newman said of the pair’s first encounter. “But I’m glad I didn’t.”
Perhaps that reverence for life is what made Newman a donor to OMRF. As with his military exploits, though, he was reluctant to take credit for three quarters of a century worth of generosity.
He made his first gift when OMRF was simply an idea. “The whole concept just sounded wonderful to me,” he said. “I guess I was hooked right away.”
The foundation opened its doors in 1950, and Newman continued his generosity for the next seven decades. “Whenever there was an appropriate occasion, I’d make a small contribution.”
He saw OMRF as “one of Oklahoma’s crown jewels.” For him, the foundation’s value to society was clear, yet unquantifiable. “I doubt there’s any way of counting how many lives have been saved over the years.” But, he said, “it’s bound to be a serious number.”
When he looked back on his life, Newman said, “the thing I’m most proud of is my family.” A 66-year loving marriage to his late wife, Harriette. Three children, three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. All of them, he said with pride, “are really, really great kids.”
In his obituary, Newman’s children described their father as a man of great strength, moral courage, compassion and humility. That description seems spot-on to us.
“Some generations are just called to do things,” Newman once told a reporter. “I’d do anything for this country. And that’s what I did.”
Dr. Andrew Weyrich is president of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and will run the marathon relay. Adam Cohen is OMRF’s senior vice president and general counsel and plans to run the 26.2-mile race. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get On Your Health delivered to your inbox — sign up here.