WWII Gold Star soldier: Lester Lunning

Hannah Haack
Intern, Story City Historical Society

​There were 403 people from the Story City community that served in the military during World War II. Of those 403, 15 men lost their lives while in service. Over the next year, the Story City Historical Society will pay tribute to these 15 soldiers in the Herald on the anniversary of their death. The Gold Star soldier we are honoring today is Lester Lunning.

This photo of Lester Lunning is from the 1948 Story City Herald Panorama Book.

Lester was born in Bradford on June 22, 1922. He went to school in Radcliffe. In 1942, Lester entered the Iowa Aircraft School in Des Moines and graduated in May 1942. On July 12, 1942, Lester married Celia Mathiason, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Nels Mathiason of Story City. Shortly after, the couple left for Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Lester was employed at the Hayes Manufacturing Company. He was then called to service and they came back to Story County. 

On Dec. 4, 1942, Lester was inducted into the Army in Des Moines, Iowa, and received his basic training at Camp Walters, Texas. He was then sent overseas to England in January 1944. On June 7, 1944, Private Lunning was wounded in action in France, and was hospitalized in England. He recovered, and rejoined his unit in France two months later. On Dec. 2, 1944, he was killed in action in Germany. Private Lunning was awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and the Infantryman’s Combat Medal. He is buried in Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, Hombourg, Belgium.

Lester was the son of Silas and Marie E. Bettel Lunning who lived in Hubbard. Besides his parents, Lester had a brother, sister, wife, one-year-old daughter, and numerous family and friends that mourned his death. His brother, Private Russell Lunning, was also in the service. 

As we remember Lester Lunning and all of our Gold Star soldiers throughout this year, let us not forget that they gave their all for liberty and peace. To learn more about all of the Story City WWII veterans, visit the historical society's website at