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Obituaries: 02/01/2010

Reginald Yardley Alexander, age 85

Reginald Yardley Alexander, 85, died of heart failure at his daughter’s home in Kenwood on Saturday, Jan. 16. Born in Elko, Nevada, and raised in Humboldt County, Alexander graduated from Mission High School in San Francisco in 1942, having already enlisted in the Army at the age of 17.

Reg reported for duty at the Presidio of Monterey, then trained in Georgia as a paratrooper. He was assigned to H Company of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, which shipped out to England in 1943 and was attached to the 101st Airborne Division, the “Screaming Eagles.”

On the evening of June 5, 1944, Alexander embarked on a flight over the English Channel to France. His plane was forced off course and hit by enemy fire, and the flight crew barely kept the plane aloft long enough for the paratroopers to jump before it crashed. Seriously injured, Alexander was assisted by the French, but ultimately taken prisoner.

Eventually Reg was abandoned along with other injured POWs as the Germans retreated before the Allied advance. After being honorably discharged from the Army, Alexander returned to San Francisco. In high school, Reg had dated Nida Kelly, and while he was missing in action for 105 days, Nida never gave up hope. They married after the war, and remained happily married until her death nearly 60 years later. Alexander became a business teacher at Balboa High School. He devoted over 50 years to the profession of education, first as a teacher and counselor, then as principal of two high schools, supervisor of secondary education for the San Francisco Unified School District, vice chancellor of City College of San Francisco, and finally as a member of the board of trustees of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District.

Reg was passionate about golf and celebrated his 80th birthday playing St. Andrews golf course in Scotland.

He returned to Normandy many times, establishing close ties with the French families who helped to protect him behind enemy lines. His last trip was in 2009 for the 65th anniversary of D-Day “Day of Remembrance” and he was honored to be awarded the Légion d’Honneur, the highest decoration in France, in the village of Houesville, making him an honorary French knight in the Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur – Sir Reginald Y. Alexander. Reg was always touched by the warmth and appreciation of the French people. In Houesville, there is even a housing project named after him.

Reg is survived by his son, Jim Alexander, daughter and son-in-law Ann and Mike Fischer, daughter and son-in-law Bonnie Alexander and Ross Sierck, granddaughter Kelly Fischer and grandson Michael Fischer. “My Dad is my hero,” said his daughter, Bonnie. “Reg was a courageous man his whole life right up to his last breath,” Ross said.

A memorial service was held Jan. 22, at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, where many of Reg’s friends and family gathered to reminisce about a life well lived.

Memorial contributions may be made to St. Andrew Presbyterian Youth Group, 16290 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, CA 95476, or to Sonoma Ecology Youth Education, 20 East Spain Street, Sonoma, CA 95476,, or a charity of your choice.

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