He was born October 14, 1920 in Erwin to Fannie Lasure Hatcher & George Hatcher, Sr. He was preceded in death by his wife of 58 years, Virginia Bailey Hatcher who passed away in 2003 and his siblings Celeste, Edward, Robert, Alvin, Margie Hawkins, Wilma Huskins and Norma Ingle. He is survived by his brother David and sisters Suzy Hughes and Bette Frye. Also left to mourn his passing are his daughters Brenda Rudman and her husband Melvyn, Linda Sklar and her husband Benjamin, Beth Briggs and her husband Larry; five grandchildren and six great grandchildren and his beautiful, special friend, Charlotte Edwards. George Hatcher has held many titles over his 97 years. Husband, Father, Brother, Grandfather, Church Deacon, Railroad Engineer and fired the Clinchfield No. 1 Steam Engine and a World War II Prisoner of War. He was, in fact, a famed member of the Erwin Nine, a group of Army Air Corpsmen from Erwin who survived being prisoners of war after their aircraft had been shot down over Germany.
Staff Sergeant, George L. Hatcher, Jr. enlisted in the Military Air Corps on June 25, 1942 and on his fourth mission over the English Channel, was shot down on May 27, 1944 in his B-17 #4297460- the 'Delayed Lady.’ in the 457th Bomb Group. He was captured by the German Army and spent 13 long months in Stalag Luft IV prison camp in Sagan, Germany before being liberated on April 29, 1945. Upon returning to the United States and seeing that beautiful Statue of Liberty as the sun rose in New York harbor, while eating as many Hershey chocolate bars as he possibly could on that Liberty ship that brought him home - he resumed his job at the Clinchfield railroad that had been held for him when he volunteered for the war effort.
He had a dream of being an Engineer on the Old Clinchfield Railroad. He called that Old No.1 “such a special little engine” and considered it an honor to be in the cab. George & his brother, Ed Hatcher, are synonymous with that Old No. 1 – And George knew every stop like the back of his capable hand. From Elk Horn City, Kentucky to Spartanburg, South Carolina, brothers George & Ed waved to folks along the way, shoveled that coal tirelessly and took such wonderful care of her, making sure she was on time and always shiny and ready to climb those Tennessee and North Carolina mountain passes.
During his Railroad years and after retiring from the Railroad, George spent time with his family, fishing on Fontana Lake, exercising every single day and speaking to countless groups of adults, children, fellow soldiers, students and Rotary Clubs about his experiences as a Prisoner of War - seeing this as an opportunity to remind everyone the cost of keeping a dangerous dictator at bay and this Country safe as well as working through his own painful memories, one story at a time.
George Hatcher was also a wonderful Grandfather who gave his Grandchildren a quarter for helping him mow the lawn, taught them how to hold a fishing rod, loved to be constantly moving and when asked one morning how he was feeling he replied, “I woke up around 5:00 this morning, took my exercise, had some coffee and now I’m ready to punch the world in the face.” He loved sweets, Westerns, the Tennessee Volunteers, his family, his friends, Erwin, his fellow Veterans, his Church and watching the graceful deer that sometimes make their way to the backyard for a nibble on his plants.
Here’s to continuing to punch the world in the face every day by teaching us all to take on the day like he did.
The family respectfully requests the honor of your presence as we offer tribute and remember the life of George Lee Hatcher, Jr. in a funeral service to be held at 6:00 PM on Friday, June 1, 2018 in the auditorium at Unicoi County High School. Minister Robert Bess will officiate. A visitation period to share memories and offer support to the family will begin at 3:00 PM and will continue until the hour of service on Friday in the Unicoi County High School Auditorium. A graveside committal service with Military Honors will be held at 11:00 AM on Saturday, June 2, 2018 in Evergreen Cemetery. Those attending are asked to meet at Valley Funeral Home by 10:15 AM on Saturday to go in procession. Active pallbearers will be Larry Norris and the Deacons and Elders of Love Chapel Christian Church. Honorary pallbearers will be the members of Rolling Thunder.
In lieu of flowers or plants, the family would like to ask that any and all donations be made to either option here: Love Chapel Christian Church, that he loved and respected, at 1421 Love Station Rd, Erwin, TN 37650, by calling 423-743-5321 or visiting www.lovechapelchristianchurch.com. Or to the VA Mountain Nursing Home, where he and many other Veterans were treated with such reverence and respect. Donations can be sent to:
James A Quillen VA Medical Center, Volunteer Service #135, Note: Nursing Home or As Needed, PO Box 4000, Mountain Home, TN 37684 or call direct 423-502-9047.
Condolences and memories may be shared with the family and viewed at www.valleyfuneralhome.net or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ValleyFuneralHomeErwin . These arrangements are made especially for the family and friends of George Lee Hatcher, Jr. through Valley Funeral Home, 1085 N. Main Ave., Erwin, 423-743-9187.