Former Fort Jackson commander dies of leukemia
January 13, 2011
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Today, the Fort Jackson and Columbia communities will bid farewell to retired Maj. Gen. John Renner, former Fort Jackson commanding general, who lost his fight against leukemia Jan. 6.
Renner, who will be laid to rest today, served as the post's 35th commanding general from 1989 to 1991. He retired from the Army in 1994 after 32 years of service.
By all accounts, the 70-year-old Renner was as physically active as he had ever been. After playing 18 rounds of golf, friends said, the Arizona native would go on to play several tennis matches, another pastime of his.
"His doctor always said he had the body of a 50-year-old," said longtime friend and retired Col. Jack Hupp. "He was just a gregarious, friendly, have-a-smile-for-everybody type of guy."
Hupp said he played a round of golf with Renner just a day before he was diagnosed with acute leukemia this summer. Renner later had a bone marrow transplant, Hupp said. Hupp said he has known Renner since he came to Fort Jackson, and Hupp later succeeded Renner as chair of the Fort Jackson Retiree Council.
In addition, Renner was named an honorary member of the Columbia Rotary Club, in which Hupp is a member, and worked together through other community groups. They were also golf buddies.
"He had more in him than I do," Hupp said. "I consider John a perfect role model of someone who retired and went on to do community work."
Retired Col. Angelo Perri was another friend and golf buddy of Renner's. The two met when Renner was commanding general and Perri was a lobbyist for the Retired Officers' Association.
"For the last 16 years or so, I've played golf with him twice a week," Perri said, adding that the time they spent together totaled approximately 6,500 hours.
"When he retired, he elected to become a very significant part of the Columbia community. He just wanted to do something more than just retire and play golf."
Perri said that it was clear that Renner took great pride in his job.
"He did his very best to improve training, to improve quality-of-life and to (foster) relations with the community," he said. "He had a great presence ... in the Greater Columbia area, and he represented to (the community) Fort Jackson and the U.S. Army, and it was a very positive impression. He was greatly admired."
Renner's community service work included service on the Salvation Army Board of Directors; counseling and mentoring homeless men in the Salvation Army Uplifting Life Program; membership on the South Carolina State Museum Board, service on the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, and Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee; service on the Richland II Schools Budget Review Committee; service as chairman of the Fort Jackson Retiree Council; and membership in the Spring Valley Rotary Club.
Fort Jackson's current commanding general, Maj. Gen. James M. Milano, said that he was glad he had the opportunity to visit with Renner in the hospital before his death.
"We lost a great leader - the Army, the nation and Fort Jackson and Columbia lost a great leader," Milano said. He added, "He's a special guy to me in a couple of ways."
In addition to sharing the Fort Jackson commanding general duty, the two Soldiers also shared the call sign "Devil 6" as commanders of Fort Riley's 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, also known as the "Devil Brigade."
"That makes him all the more special to me," Milano said.
"He cared about the local community, and that's one of the reasons he came back and retired here," said retired Col. Stan Luallin, who served as Renner's chief of staff when he assumed command of Fort Jackson. "We've been friends ever since," Luallin said. "He was a very caring CG and (he) had high standards of training excellence."
Luallin also served alongside Renner in the Spring Valley Rotary Club, where Luallin is a past president.
"He was a good person," he said. "The motto of the Rotary Club is 'Service above Self,' and he was a perfect example of that."
Renner is survived by his wife Mary Lou Doolen Renner; daughters Heather Mary Ligon and Renner Jo Eberlein; grandson John Clayton Ligon, his mother Mary Elizabeth Renner and his brother George Richard Renner.
The funeral service is scheduled for today at 1:30 p.m., at Northeast Presbyterian Church. The family will receive guests from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. prior to the service. The burial service is scheduled for 3 p.m. at the Fort Jackson National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, friends are encouraged to give to the charity of their choice.
IN THE KNOW:
MaJ. Gen. John Renner began his Army career as a second lieutenant in 1962 after graduating from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Science in business administration. He later earned a Master of Science in international relations from George Washington University.
He earned his Parachutist Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge and Ranger tab at Fort Benning, Ga.
He served two tours in Vietnam, first as a company commander with the 25th Division in CuChi, and then as a district senior adviser in the Mekong Delta. His career included several notable assignments such as deputy commander of Allied Land Forces for Southeastern Europe in Izmir, Turkey; assistant commander of the 1st Infantry Division; commander of the 1st Infantry Division Forward in Germany; and commander of the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division.
His many decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, two Silver Stars, the Bronze Star with a V device, two Purple Hearts, the Air Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal and the Combat Infantryman Badge.