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First resident moves into veterans center

News Enterprise - 5/9/2017

Gerald and Joni Hill pulled out of the driveway of their Cecilia residence at 5 a.m. for their last trip to the Thomson-Hood Veterans Center in Wilmore.

The 90-minute drive will be worth it as the couple is picking up Eugene Hill, Gerald's father, and moving him today to the Radcliff Veterans Center as the facility's first resident.

"He talks about it all the time," Gerald said.

The Franklin Crossroads native has been a resident at the Wilmore facility for a year following a fall at home that left him unable to stay alone on the family's 170-acre farm.

Eugene, 91, also occasionally deals with episodes of dementia, his son said.

Eugene's wife, Dorothy, died in 2012, leaving Gerald and his sister, Carol Brangers, to take care of their father. After his fall, which caused a broken hip, doctors said Eugene needed to find a more permanent residence where he could receive around-the-clock care.

Gerald remembered Joni's uncle being a resident of Thomson-Hood nearly a decade ago and Eugene became a resident of the veterans facility May 5 of last year. They awaited an opportunity to have him admitted to the new $40 million, 120-bed Radcliff Veterans Center.

"Last Wednesday, they called," Gerald said. "We got the green light and we're good to go."

Eugene is a U.S. Air Force veteran, who enlisted in 1944. He was just two weeks away from graduating high school when he left Hardin County.

"He was only in there two years, but the way he talks about it, he really enjoyed it," Gerald said.

The veteran was a flight engineer and an accomplished machine gunner with the 15th Air Force.

Combat trained, Eugene would have been among the next to see action in World War II. However, the war ended a few days prior to his deployment.

Many medals and commendations are displayed in a shadow box, including a pair of Silver Wings for aerial machine gunners, a Good Conduct Medal, a WWII Victory Medal, an American Campaign Medal, a 2nd Air Force Combat patch, an Armorment Specialist patch and many others. He held the rank of sergeant when his time in the service ended.

Eugene returned to Franklin Crossroads to work alongside his father repairing cars and trucks.

"He grew up in the garage," Gerald said. "That's where he learned to be a mechanic."

After a few years, Eugene landed a civil service job in 1951 at Fort Knox, where he spent the next 30 years in a rebuilding shop, transitioning to working on tanks and eventually becoming an inspector.

In his later years, Eugene wrote down what repairs needed to be done on Army tanks. After his notations, the tanks were sent to the shop and back to Eugene for clearance.

He retired in 1981, keeping his hands busy on a farm raising cattle and tobacco as he had done since his youth. Occasionally, Eugene worked on a tractor.

Eugene and Gerald have a fascination for Farmall tractors. They enjoyed working on them together.

Gerald and Joni have made weekly visits to Wilmore, taking Eugene to dinner or for a drive in the countryside.

Carol would visit on weekends, as would other family members.

"It pretty much takes up a whole day," Gerald said.

With Eugene now only 20 miles away, his family will be able to visit more often and when regular family gatherings are held, Eugene will be able to be part of them.

Since it's been a year since Eugene has seen the farm in Franklin Crossroads, Gerald said his father is excited about visiting their home. At practically every visit, Gerald said Eugene would ask him about what he has been doing on the farm.

Packing up Eugene's clothing and a few items are all that's left for the move to Radcliff.

"It's beautiful," Gerald said about the veterans center. "It's one of the nicest places I've ever been in. I'm really impressed with them."

In early February, the family went on a tour of the facility and was able to select a room for Eugene.

Gerald expects many acquaintances from Franklin Crossroads who have asked about Eugene to stop by to visit once he gets settled into his new home.

"He's looking forward to it," Gerald said. "He's wanting to get back to Hardin County where he was born and raised."

Greg Thompson can be reached at 270-505-1762 or gthompson@thenewsenterprise.com.

 
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