Joel said at the beginning, he did not record the last three missions for some reason.

Joel D. Punches  1915 - 2004

Joel D. Punches, 88, passed away at his home, April 26, 2004. Funeral services will be 11 a.m. Friday, April 30, 2004, at the Dudley-Hoffman Mortuary. Military honors will be rendered by the Vandenberg Air Force Honor Guard. A private reception will be held at the Punches residence following the services.

"Joe" was born in Wymore, Neb., in 1915. He attended college in Greley, Colo., and soon after, he met and married Margaret Locke in 1940. After a couple years of teaching in Colorado, the U.S. Air Force beckoned him. He flew 24 bombing missions into Germany, and on this 24th venture his plane was shot down. Parachuting over Holland, Punches evaded Germans for nine months with the aid of anti-Nazi Dutch farmers before finally being rescued. His patriotic duty to serve continued by becoming a member of the Air Force Reserves. He served a total of 33 years for his country.

He accepted a teaching position in 1949 at Santa Maria High School. Mr. Punches joined both the teaching and coaching staffs where he was an educator until his retirement in 1975. The SMHS Saints, under the track guidance of Coach Punches, were league champions nine of 10 seasons (only season not won was to San Luis Obispo High and Coach Bob Punches - Joel's older brother). In addition to the track coaching duties, Punches headed the cross country team, assisted with the basketball and wrestling programs, and instructed P.E. and math classes.

After his double retirement of Air Force Reservist and SMHS instructor/coach, both in 1975, Punches and his late wife Margaret; enjoyed traveling in the states and abroad and also spending time farming on some acreage at Nipomo on a site which was affectionately named "The Puncherosa." Growing avocados, and raising tomatoes and onions absorbed many, many enjoyable and relaxing hours.

Punches was an avid Santa Maria Country Club golfer and also a longtime member of the Santa Maria Elks Lodge.

He is survived by sons, Joel Punches, Jr. and wife, Lili of Nipomo, Brian and Joylen of Grass Valley, Calif.; grandsons, Marcello Punches, 17, of Nipomo, Kolby, 9, of Grass Valley; brothers, Harold of St. Louis, Mo., and Dick of Georgetown, Texas. He was preceded in death by his wife, Margaret in December 2002, and brothers, Bob of San Luis Obispo and Max from Idaho.

Ashes will be placed in the burial plot of wife Margaret in the Santa Maria Cemetery.

Santa Maria lost a dedicated and legendary coach and also one of the few remaining World War II heroes. We salute you airman Major Joel D. Punches as "Off we go, into the wide blue yonder, Flying high, into the sky."