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Jesse Lafoon was born November 9, 1922 in Victoria, Virginia. He was 23 years old when he helped to liberate Dachau, as a supply officer with the 54th field hospital, a MASH unit of the 7th Army. At the time of his interview on October 12, 1978, he was a retired army officer living in Fairburn, Georgia.

Lafoon got started in his first career--as a mortician--when he was fourteen and took a job at a local funeral parlor in Martinsville, Virginia. He kept that job through high school, until he joined the service. He attended the Cincinnati College of Embalming after his discharge.

When asked if his experiences as a mortician made him more comfortable with death, and with the sights of Dachau, he replied. "…It always bothered me. It bothered me more if it was a younger person--I hated to work on children, babies in particular, but an older person that had died of natural causes at a ripe old age, this didn't affect me as much, and so I had not been hardened to death. And this bothered me lots because these people were of all nationalities. They were not old people. They didn't die of natural causes."