By Ian White
JOE VICKERY, the county’s innovative former health district chief executive who died on Friday, will be laid to rest today, Wednesday, after a funeral service at Texas City’s First Baptist church.
As a former US Marine, commandant of the county’s branch of the Marine Corps League and founder of its Fallen Marines program, it is expected that his passing will be marked by an honor guard of his proud comrades in arms.
Alabama native Vickery was 81 when, with his wife Dolores and other family members at his side, he succumbed to complications following heart surgery a few weeks previously.
Born on August 20, 1933, to Anniston residents Henry and Videlia Vickery, he moved to Texas City with his family in 1947 and soon became a prominent member of the athletic programs at Blocker junior high and Texas City high schools.
He joined the US Marine Corps Reserves in Galveston and was a member when it was activated during the Korean War in 1950. An expert pistol and rifle marksman, he was nominated for the title Marine Of The Year and, on his return from service, joined the Marines’ Active Reserve, with which he remained for many years.
Having played at half-back for his high school, he won a football scholarship to the University Of Mississippi and later coached and played at quarter-back for a semiprofessional team in Texas City while working at NASA for two years. He remained a keen sportsman for the rest of his life and was justifiably proud of his three golfing holes-in-one.
He is probably best known in the county as the man whose name adorns its animal shelter because of his work forming an integrated animal-control unit serving the entire area.
During his time as director of the county’s environmental and consumer health department, it was considered one of the best and most progressive in the state and its programs recognized as models throughout Texas.
He represented the department on a number of state organizations and was director of the eastern section of Texas Municipal Health Officials for many years.
He was also twice director of the county’s mosquito control department and, on his retirement in 1993, was given the title director emeritus, remaining chairman of its board for a further 10 years.
During his retirement, he was a devoted advocate of all things US Marine. As recently as last year, he was elected chaplain of the Marine Corps League’s Texas department, having served in that position for the Galveston County chapter for some years.
The League’s Fallen Marine program that he authored in 2002 in honor of all fallen Marines has since been adopted by the state department as its official honor service and by departments and hundreds of detachments all over the world. As the program’s founder, Vickery led honor services for more than 400 fallen Marines in the Galveston County area alone, dedication for which he was presented with a local newspaper’s Unsung Hero award in 2011.
As The Post went to press on Monday, it was understood that visitation would take place at Carnes funeral home at 3100 Gulf Freeway, Texas City, from 5:00-7:00pm yesterday, Tuesday, with the funeral at the First Baptist church, 1400 Ninth Avenue North, at 2:00pm today, followed by interment at Forest Park East cemetery, Webster.