When John W. Milton Jr. got a leave from his Army duties during World War II, he headed directly to Paris.

Most of his Army buddies engaged in tempting, after-hours activities, but Milton desired something with cultural benefits. He hit the museums of Paris, and also managed to catch a performance by the singer Edith Piaf in a Paris nightclub, said his son, Jack Milton of South Portland.

“My dad was an interesting guy, and a very intelligent man. It was completely within his character that he went to the museums instead of doing what all his other mates were doing,” his son said.

John Warren Milton Jr., 89, died Friday after a short illness.

He interrupted his college education at Bates College in Lewiston to serve with the Allies in World War II. He enlisted in 1943, and fought in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. It was the last major German offensive, catching the Allies off-guard during a brutal winter. Jack Milton said his father did not often talk about the war until he was older, “and then he started telling us these stories that would make your jaw drop.”

He was entrenched in snow up to his waist during the Battle of the Bulge. “He told us, ‘I was never so cold all my life. I said to myself: If I get out of this alive, I will never have cold feet again,’” his son said.

He did get out alive, and ended up back in Maine, where he finished his education and made his life in business. It wasn’t until he and his wife, Dorothy, retired that they escaped the winter cold, in favor of warmer climates in Arizona and Florida. “His feet bothered him the rest of his life. They were all frostbitten,” his son said.

He earned a Bronze Star for his war service, as well as a certificate from the French government for his role in the liberation.

Mr. Milton spent much of his war service in Belgium. The area had been devastated during the war. Cities and towns were destroyed, and residents had to scrounge for heat sources. A talented artist, he found a canvas and two tubes of oil paints. One was brown, the other a yellow-greenish color. With a butter knife, he painted the scene of a man with branches in his arms bending over to pick up more branches from a forest floor for use in a fire.

“I told my dad, ‘After you’re gone, I would love to have that painting.’ That Christmas a few months later, I got a package from my dad. I opened it up and it was that painting. He enclosed a card, and said, ‘I thought you would enjoy this now instead of waiting until later.’ ”

The paintings hang in Jack Milton’s living room in South Portland.

Mr. Milton was born in Boston, and raised in Bath. His father worked at Bath Iron Works, and he also worked there briefly. He finished his Bates education after the war, earning a degree in accounting.

Mr. Milton was well known in Portland, where he worked for Maine Bonding and later helped establish Northeast Insurance with friends. He and his wife moved to Yarmouth, where they bought and ran a breakfast and lunch spot known as Elena’s. They both rose every morning by 4 a.m. to prepare breakfast. When the weather was bad, a police officer would drive them to work to ensure the police, road crews and others had ample coffee and doughnuts.

After retiring, they moved back to Portland. They spent their retirement years traveling the country in a small RV.

John and Dorothy Milton raised four children. He is survived by his wife and the children, Jack and his wife, Susan, of South Portland; Eileen and her husband, Robert Johnson, of Longmont, Colo.; James and his wife, Vicki, of Golden, Colo.; and Martha of Old Orchard Beach.

Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: 

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