October 11, 1923 ~ August 19, 2012
Menford Lawrence Sutton, 88, passed away peacefully at Arlington Memorial Hospice Unit on Sunday, August 19, 2012. A long time resident of Arlington, Texas, he suffered from Alzheimer Disease for the last thirteen years. Menford, known to all as “ML”, was born to Jesse Lawrence Sutton and Mattie Ola Harris Sutton on October 11, 1923 in Harrold, Texas, and was the oldest of five children born to his parents. ML was preceded in death by his parents and brothers; Frank Ellis Sutton and Lloyd Paul Sutton. A member of the “Greatest Generation,” ML enlisted in the U.S. Navy immediately following the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor and spent his wartime service in combat in the Pacific aboard the USS Hazelwood (DD-531). Following two years of combat operations, a kamikaze attack on the USS Hazelwood off Okinawa killed all senior officers and 67 enlisted men on April 29, 1945. As the remaining crew struggled with onboard damage control, ML was tasked with inspecting the exterior integrity of the damaged hull at the water level. That assignment completed and temporary repairs made, the Hazelwood and its survivors returned to Pearl Harbor for permanent repairs. ML and other members of the crew received Honorable Discharges from the US Navy on October 25, 1945, while the Hazelwood continued to serve until decommissioned in 1965. Following World War II, ML returned to North Texas and entered the Southern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth where he received his PHD in Theology. He also attended TCU while in the Seminary. Following graduation, ML served as a pastor to a Baptist church in Vicksburg, Mississippi from 1949 – 1951. He then returned to Fort Worth where he went to work for Bell Helicopter until his retirement in 1993. His hobby and love was aviation. A pilot since 1950 and aircraft owner until his illness, ML was enthralled with rocketry and was a pioneer in the model rocketry industry. In the late 1950's, he and partner Gene Dickerson started Coaster Corporation, a maker and marketer of model rockets. ML's model rockets were industry leaders. According to Bell Helicopter News, one, the four foot tall Mercury, flew faster than the speed of sound at an altitude of more than half a mile. In 1963, ML and his partner sold Coaster Corporation and its asset ultimately became a part of Estes Industries, the world leader in model rocketry. One model rocket developed by ML Sutton is still in production after more than fifty years. ML was a long-time supporter of the Big Brothers Big Sisters in Arlington, and he served as a “Big” for many years, mentoring numerous boys supported by this organization. He was an active supporter until his illness. His survivors are his three children, Dorinda Sutton Cavender and her husband, Hugh C. Akin, his sons, Rodney L. Sutton and his wife, Jeanie LeMoine Sutton and W. Harold Sutton, his six grandchildren, six great grandchildren and one great-great grandchild, two sisters, Evelyn Sutton Roberts and LaVerna Sutton Pugh and numerous nieces and nephews. ML will be buried at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, 2000 Mountain Creek Parkway, Dallas, TX 75211, on Thursday, August 23rd , at 12:30 PM. The assembly point for ML's interment will be at the cemetery's “Lane C” at 12:15 PM. In lieu of flowers please make donations to Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star, 450 East John Carpenter Freeway, Irving, Texas, 75062 or the Alzheimer's Foundation of America.