Cover photo for Hartzell Leolen Sherrill's Obituary
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1922 Hartzell 2019

Hartzell Leolen Sherrill

May 26, 1922 — December 23, 2019

Hartzell Leolen Sherrill, age 97, passed away December 23, 2019, in Wharton, Texas.

Hartzell was born in Weeks, Scott County, Arkansas, on May 26, 1922, the oldest of four children to Jim and Ovie Sherrill.  In 1929, the family moved to the Wharton area where he attended elementary school in Wharton and graduated from Eagle Lake High School in 1940. He met his future life mate, Vera Marie Rather, on a blind date in July 1941 but their courtship was put on hold when Pearl Harbor was attacked six months later.

He enlisted in the Navy in December 1941 and, for the next four years, served as the only signalman on four supply ships called Liberty Ships, where he handled critical visual communications, the only ship-to-ship communication since radio silence was maintained aboard ships while at sea. On D-Day, his ship, the SS Charles M. Hall, made the first of 15 trips it would complete over the coming days across the English Channel carrying troops and equipment from Southampton, England, to the beaches of Normandy.

Upon his discharge in December 1945, Hartzell returned to the family farm in Pledger and he and Marie married in April 1946. While his initial plan had been to join his father in farming, a visit from a Wharton County Junior College recruiter changed that. WCJC was recruiting veterans to its first class of students, and Marie –not a farm girl – took the recruiter out to the pasture to find Hartzell and make sure he signed up.

Hartzell was a member of Wharton County Junior College’s first graduating class. He completed his studies at the University of Houston where he received a bachelor’s degree in physics. He worked as an estimator for a Houston tile contractor before being hired by Texas Gulf Sulfur, where he devoted the remainder of his career, first in Beaumont and later in its downtown Houston headquarters.  He retired in 1983, and Hartzell and Marie spent their retirement years in a home he designed and helped build in Wharton.

A true renaissance man, Hartzell stayed active with many hobbies over the years. He earned his Texas registered surveyor license as well as a private pilot license. When the children were young, he designed and built a camper that the family used for many memorable summer trips to Inks Lake and Village Creek. Today, our homes are filled with the fruits of his years spent woodworking, antique shopping and restoration, and clock collecting and repair. He dabbled in coin collecting, and prided himself on his beautiful lawn and the pear and cypress trees he planted.

Hartzell also was known for his homemade biscuits, which he spent years perfecting even after being declared legally blind. He taught himself photography, computer programs, Spanish, and even kept an active Facebook page into his nineties. But his favorite pastime was driving to Pledger to check on his cotton farm. He was a self-made, determined, hardworking man who instilled a strong work ethic and independence in his children.

But most importantly, he was a devout Christian whose life was devoted to learning, following and teaching the Bible. He was a Godly man who set an example for all who met him of how to treat others. His love of two things was beyond all others: Jesus Christ, and Marie Sherrill. Their marriage of 66 years was a true example of love, honor, respect, commitment and partnership.

Hartzell served for many years in volunteer leadership roles in the churches he and Marie attended in Beaumont (Ridgewood Church of Christ), Houston (Candlelight Church of Christ) and Wharton (Abell Street Church of Christ). He was both a deacon and elder at Ridgewood; preached and led Bible classes; regularly visited the elderly and sick; oversaw the financial records at the churches they attended; and even officiated at the weddings of his daughter and granddaughter.

He was quick witted, fun-loving and loved telling stories to anyone who would listen, especially ones that let him brag about his kids and their kids: Robert Kenneth Sherrill (Janis) of Houston, William Sydney Sherrill (Peggy) of Wharton and Sue Sherrill Durio (Keith) of Lakeway; grandchildren Austin (Pia) Sherrill, Courtney (Matt) Lynch, Kaylyn Sherrill, Jenna Durio, Lani Durio and Michelle Aldridge (Steven); and greatgrandchildren Travis, Carlota and Ramona Sherrill, and Kaylie and Chloe Miska. We will miss his bear hugs and his phone calls which he always signed off with, “Well, check you later!”

Hartzell is preceded in death by his beloved Marie; his parents; his siblings, Willis Sherrill, Franklin Sherrill and Jane Allen; and many dear friends and loved ones.

Hartzell was a loving and devoted father, husband and friend, a blessing to all whose lives he touched. He was a hero not simply for his military service, but for the way he showed all of us how to live life well. He left this world a better place, and his passing leaves a hole in the lives of all fortunate to have known him. At last, he can finally be reunited with his precious Marie in the arms of his loving Father.

“Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.”  Matthew 25:23. 

The family would like to especially thank his caregivers Sherri Ephran, Mary Taylor, Valerie Cheatham, Hospice Houston and Elmcroft Senior Living. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in his honor to Honor Flight Houston or Abell Street Church of Christ.

Check you later, dad. We will see you again soon.

Visitation will be held on Friday, December 27, 2019 at the Chapel of Wharton Funeral Home after 6pm. Funeral services will be held on Saturday, December 28, 2019 at Abell Street Church of Christ at 11 am. Burial will follow the Evergreen Memorial Park Cemetery in Wharton with Military honors performed by members of the Wharton American Legion and Wharton VFW.

Funeral Services are under the direction of Wharton Funeral Home.  Condolences may be left at

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Hartzell Leolen Sherrill, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Friday, December 27, 2019

6:00 - 8:00 pm (Central time)

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Funeral Service

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Starts at 11:00 am (Central time)

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