Harold Oliver Rice Jr.
PFC in 603rd Engineer Camouflage Bn : Co A
Born 1908 in NE, Died 1966
County of residence at enlistment: Otoe County, NE
Other residence(s): Nebraska City, NE; Chicago, IL; NY?
United States Army, European Theatre of Operations
Occupation before the war: wholesale managers
College education before the war: UVA Charlottesville; American Academy of Art (Chicago); Chicago Art Institute
Harold Rice was born on July 28, 1908 in Nebraska City, NE. His father was a wholesale grocer with the firm Sergeant Rice Co., and he had one older sister, Phyllis.
He graduated from Nebraska City High School in 1925; at graduation his mother played the piano, and his father played the violin and directed the chorus.
Harold studied engineering at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in the fall of 1926, but left after one semester. In the spring of 1927, he was studying art in Chicago; newspaper articles say that he was enrolled at the American College of Arts and later at the National Academy of Arts (these are likely both referring to the American Academy of Art which had opened in Chicago in 1923). He graduated from the Institute of Art in Chicago in 1931 and opened a studio in that city. Articles about him throughout the 1930s continue to describe him as an artist. He entered a contest for Post Office murals in 1935, and in that year also headed to Florida to paint and sketch (seascapes, landscapes, and portraits). A 1936 article says that he "is becoming a noted young artist. He is a portrait painter, and he also paints murals."
In 1939 he was still in Chicago, but by 1940 he had moved back to live with his father in Nebraska City, and become an accountant at, and later manager of, H.O. Rice & Co., his father's eponymously named wholesale grocery firm. His mother had died in 1937, and this may have contributed to his decision to move back home and join his father in the business. But he was still a practicing artist.
Harold registered for the draft on October 15, 1940, and enlisted on September 11, 1942. Like other urban artists, he was assigned to the 603rd Engineer Camouflage Battalion; a few weeks after enlisting, he wrote his father a letter from Fort Meade saying that he liked his army work and found plenty to keep him interested and busy. He saw service in Europe during the war, reporting to his father that they had built bridges across the Rhine, fought vigorously against bitter Nazi opposition, and, on two occasions, could have been surrounded and wiped out if "the Germans had had enough sense to attack us." Harold was discharged on September 26, 1945 with the rank of PFC, and returned to Nebraska City.
Little is known of his life over the next twenty years. By 1950, his father had remarried and retired, leaving Harold to run the wholesale grocery business. His sister had long since left Nebraska, earning her doctorate from Penn State in geology and geography in 1948, and pursuing an academic career.
Harold's gravestone has the words "New York" engraved, mysteriously, below his name. Did he leave Nebraska and go to New York to take up his art again? Perhaps one day we'll learn the answer.
Harold died on August 7, 1966 in a hospital in Omaha, NE; his death notice provides only one clue to his life: the single word "Artist." He is buried at Wyuka Cemetery in Nebraska City.
1925 article in the Nebraska City News Press re his HS graduation
1927 article in the Nebraska City News Press re his education
1927 U Virginia yearbook
1929 article in the Nebraska Daily News-Press re his education
1935 article in Nebraska Daily News-Press; he is headed to Florida
1936 article in the Pilot-Tribune (NE) re his art
1940 draft card
1941 article in the Nebraska Daily News-Press
1942 enlistment record
1942 article in the Nebraska Daily News-Press re his military career
1945 article in the Nebraska City News Press about his military experience
1966 Find a Grave record
1966 headstone applications for military veterans
1966 death notice in the Lincoln Star (NE)