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Mountain Home's oldest vet honored on Presidents Day

John Thompson • Updated Feb 18, 2019 at 8:59 PM

Monday was Presidents Day, a national holiday across the country, but at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Mountain Home, it was also a day when Frank Edward Head was honored by the Tennessee Senate and Sen. Rusty Crowe. Head holds the distinction of being the oldest World War II veteran at the hospital. He will celebrate his 104th birthday next month.

Crowe brought with him a large and impressive-looking proclamation from the office of the chief clerk of the Senate and signed by Randy McNally as speaker of the Senate. In the document, McNally called Head a “centenarian,” but Head is too full of life to easily fit that description of him. He greeted his friends, showed a clear realization of who people were that he had never before met, and looked into their eyes as he spoke with them. Except for being hard of hearing, Head just did not appear to be very old.

According to the proclamation, Head was born on March 19, 1915, in Unicoi County. His dad was a farmer and Methodist preacher. He had five brothers and sisters, including Blake, who became sheriff of Unicoi County and would lose his life in the line of duty. Head grew up on the family’s farm in Limestone Cove, and moved to Elizabethton in 1936 to work in the rayon mills.

That is where he met Ida Marie Hart, they would marry in one of the most dramatic years of his life. They would marry on April 18, 1942. In August 1942, Head became the youngest Circuit Court clerk ever elected in Unicoi County. On Oct. 16, 1942, Head was drafted into the Army. Marie, who had been his wife for only six months, was appointed to serve his term in his absence. When their daughter, Judy Marie, was born, Head was given a pass to see his family before shipping out to the South Pacific. He would fight throughout New Guinea and the Philippines.

He remembers his unit was getting ready for one last battle in the Philippines before shipping out to invade Japan. Before the battle, he said a lieutenant told him there would not be an invasion because of a new type of bomb.

Head came home to a grateful nation and remembers entering his home for the first time in three years, where daughter Judy Marie tripped and scraped her chin.

Head returned to work at the Bemberg rayon plant in Elizabethton and once again began serving as a leader, this time in the Range community. The family joined Slagle’s United Methodist Church. He served as president of the Range Community Club from 1952-58. He would serve as a county commissioner from 1954-78.

Head also served as an active member of the Republican Party, Watauga Masonic Lodge, American Legion and the board of directors for the Watauga Volunteer Fire Department, which he helped found. He served on the Carter County Planning Commission, was a member of the East Tennessee Development Commission and served as a delegate to the Governor”s Conference on Aging.

His wife was also a leader in the school system, serving as a teacher and a principal for 34 years until her death in 1986.

Head remained largely independent until just a few years ago, when he broke his hip and went to the nursing home. He continues to be well-liked by both staff and residents and he remains very pleased with the quality of the care he receives.

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