Talon News - Good Local News

By Jacque Ritchie
TALON 

WWII VET APPROACHES 100

Gene Hamilton

 

November 10, 2017

Gene Hamilton still plays the organ at the Methodist Church in Aztec and plans to play on his 100th birthday

Meet Gene Hamilton. Born in 1918 in Illinois, Hamilton moved to Aztec in 1941. Previous to coming here, he served in World War II as a Navy Medical Corpsman First Class, attached to an amphibious unit in the South Pacific theater. “I was in the Navy about four years and spent most of my time in the Solomon Islands. I was there about two and a half years and I survived it.” Hamilton recalls, “I wasn’t on a ship to start with, I was in the Amphibs, it’s like a landing party for the Navy and the Marines too, so I was on the islands. We’d make a new landing once in a while, there’s a million islands down there you know. The Japs had quite a few so we would block them from going on ...” Hamilton recalls with a far-away look, “Then they lost their air force and ability and so on, then they had to move out of the Solomons and they were on their way to New Zealand and Australia and that’s as far as they ever got.”

After his arrival in Aztec, he taught music and band at Aztec High School until 1973. ”I taught a year in Dolores, Colorado that was my first year.” In 32 years at AHS, Hamilton led the band to two state fair championships in 1951-1952. “In those days they didn’t have schools broken up into divisions, we had to compete against the big schools. We beat out Santa Fe and Albuquerque, of course there were only two high schools in Albuquerque then, now there’s probably 15.”

“I don’t know that there is any secret to living a long life. It happens to some people and for lots of ‘em it just doesn’t work out that way, but it did for me,” said 99-year-old Aztec resident Gene Hamilton. “I never really cared much for vegetables but I did exercise a lot, I did walk a lot, I played golf for many years.” Hamilton confided, “I don’t know that there is any one thing you can tell someone to help them live a long life. Some people will and some won’t.”

As for vices, “Oh I’ve had a few,” smiles Hamilton as he chews on an unlit cigar.

Hamilton recieved a scholarship to study music at Sherwood College in Chicago because, “I knew I wasn’t gonna get a math scholarship.”

Gene has been married to his bride Kathryn Hall “since 19 and 46.” After 71 years of marriage they both still seem right fond of each other. The Hamiltons have two daughters, Janice Baxter of Aztec and Patricia Bloomberg of St. Paul, Minnesota. The Hamiltons are blessed with four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, “so far.”

Hamilton claims if he had do it all over again he would not change a thing, “We’ve had a good life. We did our share of traveling. We went to Europe and South America you know, we were going to go to China but our friend, his doctor told him he better not try it, it’s a hard trip you know, so we ended up canceling that one.”

Hamilton has seen many advances in technology in his life. Does he believe people now-a-days actually enjoy a better quality of life then they used to? “Things were more calm back then, it wasn’t as go-go-go,” Hamilton said. “I expect the quality of life for most people is better today but I don’t know that they enjoy it that much more. They have better health care now, we didn’t have much in the way of healthcare back in 1918.” Hamilton was thoughtful, “I don’t think people are any happier now then they were. My view is: I don’t know that they have the ability to appreciate and enjoy things for what they are. It is important to maintain a good attitude and don’t be afraid to work at a lesser job to begin with. Life is something to enjoy not just driving yourself crazy trying to succeed. You don’t have to be the president of the bank to enjoy life.”

Since last years’ election, Hamilton believes that the nation is headed in the right direction economically at least, “...and that’s what people really care about isn’t it? They want to be economically safe, that’s what everybody’s goal really is.” Hamilton was cautiously optimistic about the future, “There are more good people than screwballs out there. The good people won’t let the screwballs take over in the long run.”

These days the Hamiltons enjoy a quiet life, he likes following the stock market although he declined to recommend any “hot stock tips.” He and his wife both enjoy church services on Sunday. Hamilton has been playing the organ at the Aztec Methodist Church since 1946 and plans to continue to accompany the congregation beyond his 100th birthday in August. He grinned as he said, “That’s what I’m shootin for!”

 

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