12/20/2012 12:55:00 PM Oldest WWII vet celebrates 100 Lackey earned five battle stars, returned to live a full life in Crawford County.
Quinn Nagy, 3, Fishers, Ind., investigates a 100th birthday centerpiece for Earl Lackey’s birthday Friday at Timber Creek Village, as Lackey, Quinn’s great-great uncle, looks at birthday cards. (Graham Milldrum photo)
The county's oldest World War II veteran turned 100 Friday, an event celebrated at Timber Creek Village with cake, ice cream and children's songs. Much of his family was there, along with his fellow residents and a group of Head Start children.
"Three boys set out to make a good world to live in. And I think we got the job done," said lifelong county resident Earl Lackey. He and two other Robinson men served together under General George S. Patton, known for his "Blood and Guts" speech and victories across Europe.
Lackey said when they started there was "no freedom whatsoever" and their efforts helped ensure a free world. He said the many Crawford County men who left for the war spurred nearby counties to send their own young men to fight.
Lackey earned five battle stars, one from the campaign after the D-Day landings in Normandy, France.
He returned to the U.S. six months after the end of the war to his wife of five years.
Any talk about Earl soon included his wife, Helen. He was her only boyfriend and she was his only girlfriend. She was 23 and he was 29 when they married on Sept. 16, 1940. Their marriage has lasted 72 years, even though Helen said her mother didn't want her dating at all.
"We never had a quarrel or nothing in our life," she said. That's partially because of Earl's often-referenced easy-going nature. His grand-niece mentioned it, the director of the assisted living community talked about it, his wife reinforced it.
They have remained close their entire lives.
The only times they haven't slept together was when he was in the Army and when she was in the hospital after she fell- the injury that ultimately would send her to Timber Creek. He followed her there.
"It's not home, but it's good enough," he said.
He left a productive garden at his home, one that grew so many strawberries he gave them away. It's a place that was his primary hobby and an extension of an agreement between him and Helen. He did the outside work, she worked inside. It was a good system for them, Helen said.
He did more than do the outside work- he built the outside, according to Bev Barrett, one of the relatives to make the trip. On Fridays, he would go and buy lumber to build it, she said.
That was an extension of the other often-noted part of Earl Lackey's life - his hard work.
The level of work he put in impresses Melanie Nagy, his grand-niece. He did more before he moved to Timber Creek than she and her husband did in their 30s, she said.
And that willingness to work hard didn't leave him as he grew older. At 90, he got so aggravated at the ditch in front of his house he filled it in. His reasoning was straightforward- he was tired of mowing up and down the ditch.
He believes that's the way to operate. You have to do it for yourself, nobody owes you anything, he told Lori Crozier, administrator of the assisted living community.
"He's just unique; we're blessed to have him here," she said.
Posted: Saturday, December 22, 2012
Article comment by:
What a wonderful story about Earl Lackey. Their marriage is a testimony to loving spirits. I am proud to have such honorable veterans left to celebrate our freedom. Great story, thanks for giving us a chance to celebrate Lackey life.
Posted: Thursday, December 20, 2012
Article comment by:
Dear Mr. Lackey, I grew up in Oblong, and wasn't even in school when the war broke out. I was afraid the Germans, a/o Japanese would come and bomb us, but knowing we had men like you protecting, and fight for us mad me less afraid, and very proud of you men. Thanks for defending our freedom. Sincerely, Phyllia(Brown)Hall, Irving, Tx.