Last Belleau Wood Marine veteran dies

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Peter H
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Last Belleau Wood Marine veteran dies

Post by Peter H » 29 Mar 2004 08:48

WWI Marine dies at 105
Gene Lee, born in Liverpool, was the oldest Marine combat veteran.

March 27, 2004
By Frank Herron
Staff writer/ Syracuse, NY

Gene Lee, the oldest Marine combat veteran and one of the last surviving
wounded soldiers of World War I, died Thursday at Community General Hospital in Syracuse.

He had turned 105 the day before.

Lee, who grew up in Liverpool and lived most of his life there, enlisted in
the Marines in April 1917, weeks after the United States entered the war and weeks after he turned 18. He was in France two months later, as part of the Fifth Marine Regiment.

He fought at many of the main engagements involving the Marines, including Belleau Wood. There, he earned a Silver Star for carrying wounded troops to safety as shells exploded around him. In that battle, he took a bullet in the left wrist.

He returned from France a hero and as a member of an elite ceremonial guard for Gen. John J. Pershing. When he arrived back in Syracuse on Sept. 29,1919, he was greeted at the train station by about 200 Liverpool residents.They escorted him to his home in a 75-car caravan.

"They rang the fire bell," he recalled in a 2000 interview. "Gosh, what a

He retired in 1964 from Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. after nearly 50 years with the company. He met his future wife, Mabel, while skating. They were married 66 years. She died in 1993. He continued to live, quite
independently, on his own until he moved into the Residential Health Care
Facility at Community General in September 2002.

He charmed the staff from the beginning, says Kerry Procopio, recreational therapy supervisor on the floor.

"He was a very soft-spoken gentleman. He loved to talk about his family and the things he used to do," she said Friday.

A week ago, Lee told a story to cousin June Kraus, a regular visitor and
checkers opponent. He recalled how he, at the age of 15, used a hockey stick to help pull out of the water a friend who had fallen through the ice on Onondaga Lake.

She taped the story. Now she can hear his voice whenever she wants.

"I'm terribly going to miss him," she said Friday.

So will many Marines. Members of the Marine Corps League and others have visited with him regularly.

In 1999, Lee received France's Legion of Honor medal, which was given to all living World War I veterans who fought in France. That year he also received a Conspicuous Service Cross from the state.

Lee carried himself gracefully and was often ready for a conversation.

This past Nov. 6, he took the time to meet with a reporter from public radio station WNYC-FM in New York City. Fred Mogul wanted to interview Lee about the Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1918.

Lee said, "Ask what you want; I'll answer what I can."

The conversation dwelt on the war for a while.

Then it turned to one of Lee's favorite topics: baseball. He talked easily
about the Yankees. ("They played good all year.") He mentioned playing with an American Legion team in the Syracuse area after the war. ("I hit as good as the rest of them.") He described his pitching with a team at a hospital in France. ("I didn't have a lot of fancy stuff, but I could throw the ball where I wanted it to go.")

When asked what it feels like to be 104 years old, Lee had a quick response.

He said it with a little smile and a little sigh: "I feel 109."

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Andy H
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Post by Andy H » 29 Mar 2004 14:07

What a sad,charming and warming story of a man at ease with himself and the world around.

Andy H

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Post by ckleisch » 08 Apr 2004 18:27

How very interesting. My own grandfather was wounded in that battle and it took him until 1963 to die. He was gased and developed emphasema(sp?). It destroyed his original career as a fireman. I have his discharge papers and he got around for the short period he was there.

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