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Obituary for John Britton "Junior" Shorter Jr.


John Britton Shorter, Jr., of Chatham died on Monday, October 1, 2018, in a Lynchburg hospital after a brief illness. He was 93 and in robust health until his final illness.

Known to his many friends as Junior, Mr. Shorter and his late brother, Bobby “Popeye” Shorter, owned and operated Shorter Brothers’ Garage north of Chatham for decades. It was in that cavernous cinder-block building—hot in the summer and cold in the winter--that local stories were told and retold and, sometimes, made better along the way.

Not only was Mr. Shorter a gifted raconteur, he had plenty of stories to tell about his own adventures—starting when he lied about his age to get into the U. S. Navy in 1943. Fresh off the family farm at Sago, near Callands, Junior had graduated from high school and was working as a mechanic for a Chatham car dealership. But with the war raging, he had places to go and things to do.

By Christmas Eve of 1943, after a whirlwind of training, Junior found himself aboard the U.S.S. Sommersdyke heading for the Philippines and dodging Kamikazes. “That’s when they sunk us,” Junior told an interviewer in 2015. “The Japanese suicide planes were coming at us like mosquitoes and we were shooting them down.”

But one Kamikaze plane got through and tore into the side of the ship, creating a massive hole. The ship was going down fast. Junior donned his life vest and leapt into the Pacific Ocean three miles off the Philippines where he bobbed around until he was picked up by an Australian ship.

“They gave me some hot tea. I thought it was the best thing in the world and have been drinking it ever since,” Junior told the interviewer. The Australians put Shorter off on a Philippine beach where he met up with a few other survivors from his ship who had found their way ashore to the 61st Battalion of SeaBees.

So he spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day on the beach with the SeaBees—a long ways from the warmth and joys of home for a teen-ager from Pittsylvania County. Little could Junior imagine as he sat on that dreary beach that he would celebrate Christmas Day of 1946 by marrying the love of his life, Dorothy Farmer. He enjoyed relating how on that Christmas Day, just back from the war, he took his bride-to-be to the Presbyterian preacher’s house in Chatham and had him do the honors.

Mr. Shorter is survived by his daughter, Dr. Lisa Shorter of Chatham, and her three children: Britton Burkett and his wife Sarah of Washington; Tyler Burkett of Richmond and Steele Burkett of Charlotte.

Survivors include three brothers: Vincent Shorter and Thomas Shorter of Chatham, and Julian Neff Shorter of Kingman, Arizona.

Mr. Shorter was predeceased by his parents, John Britton Shorter, Sr., and his wife Elsie Adkins Shorter; a daughter, Cindy Shorter; two sisters, Nancy West and Ivelle Saunders; and brothers, Jim Shorter, Bobby Shorter and S. A. Shorter.

Mr. Shorter was a stalwart member of the Chatham Presbyterian Church where he served terms as a deacon and as an elder.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, October 6th, at the Chatham Presbyterian Church, with the Rev. Mikel Pugh in charge. The family will receive friends on Friday from 7-8 p.m. at Scott Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that contributions be made to the Chatham Presbyterian Church or the Dixie Doss Nursing Scholarship Fund.

Scott Funeral Home & Cremation Services in Chatham is serving the Shorter family.

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